Even if you don’t believe Jacques Lemaire should be considered for the Jack Adams Award as coach of the year if his Devils fail to make the post-season, there’s no denying he’s one of the best in the business.
In fact, he may be the best in the business.
“I don’t really know any teams Jacques had that were really good teams," said one NHL insider. "The success his teams have had boggles my mind.”
The Devils are 25-12-2 since Lemaire returned to the New Jersey bench, but as they sit seven points out with 10 games remaining it looks like the late charge is all for naught. But that doesn’t diminish what Lemaire has achieved with this club.
So what makes Lemaire so successful? Why is it that wherever he goes, whoever is on his roster, his teams seem to go above and beyond?
“He definitely does things differently,” the insider said. “I worked with him for many years and it was like going to an MIT conference about hockey. He blows any other guy I’ve seen away and I’ve been with some pretty good coaches.
“He’s like an orchestra conductor. He’s so far ahead of what everyone else is thinking. I don’t believe there’s a guy who thinks on the level he thinks.”
What makes Lemaire so successful is his desire to win and his effectiveness as a teacher. What has allowed him to sustain his success, though, is his willingness to learn new systems and adapt to the times. The insider mentioned Pat Quinn as a great coach early on in his career, but by the time he got to Toronto the game was passing him by and not much of Quinn’s philosophy was changing with it.
Is genius the right word for Lemaire? Consider the fact Wes Walz was an offensive whiz as a junior player who posted 140 points in his last year with the Lethbridge Hurricanes. Walz bounced back and forth between the NHL and American League for a few seasons before taking off to play in Europe from 1996 to 2000. He returned to the NHL with the Minnesota Wild as a 31-year-old and two years later was suddenly a candidate for the Selke Trophy.
Lemaire gets the most out of his players - and that doesn’t come easy. Most NHL teams have set days off on the schedule, but Lemaire’s teams are always working, so off-days are unpredictable. While this obviously leads to results, it can also lead to some tension.
“It doesn't matter if guys like his methods, they all respect him,” the insider said.
So should Lemaire be considered for the Jack Adams even if the Devils miss the playoffs? That’s the big question.
RISING: Lemaire is the biggest riser, but as the Capitals make a run at the East’s top seed, Bruce Boudreau deserves kudos for changing his team’s play on the fly and getting the desired results.
FALLING: Once considered one of the front-runners, the wheels came off Craig Ramsay’s Atlanta Thrashers.
MAKING THE CASE
The run the Devils have been on since his return is nothing short of incredible – the 25.9 shots-against average is nearly two whole shots fewer than second place.
Fiery first-year coach has taken lottery team into the post-season; only drawback is team has allowed more goals than it’s scored.
“They should re-name the trophy after Barry Trotz – seriously.” – NHL insider.
Sure he has talent to work with, but his team holds the best PP and second-best PK, the mark of a strong coaching job.
Adjustments were made to play a style more conducive to post-season success – last season’s 25th-ranked PK has improved to third as the team takes a run at the East’s No. 1 seed once again.
No stand-out scorers on the Coyotes – an all-round real team effort. Much to be said for not taking a step back after pulling off a surprise post-season appearance a year ago.
Easy to forget the Stanley Cup finalists were a No. 7 seed a year ago. Have stayed at the top of the East even without game-breaker Chris Pronger for an extended period.
May not utilize Marian Gaborik effectively at all times, but the young Rangers team is set to return to the post-season anyway.
One of only three teams (Vancouver and Tampa Bay the others) to sit top 10 in both PK and PP.
Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby have missed significant time, but the Pens have the league’s best PK and are still a tough match on any given night.
OUTSIDE LOOKING IN: Mike Babcock is one of the league’s best coaches and the fact his Red Wings roll along each and every season without a hitch is testament to that. He doesn’t make our top 10 simply because of the magnitude of some other coaching achievements. Honorable mention: Todd McLellan, Joel Quenneville, Randy Carlyle.
THN.com's Jack Adams Award Watch will appear monthly throughout the season and don't miss out as we'll also regularly track the Hart, Vezina and Norris.