Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Canadiens Hall of Famer Jacques Lemaire turns 65


OK so now we can say he’s officially retired! Happy 65th to Jacques LeMaire.

The Hall of Fame centre with the Canadiens, and current coach of the New Jersey Devils, was born on this day in 1945.

When you look at Lemaire’s statistics during his twelve-year career with the Montreal Canadiens, one thing that gets overshadowed was his defensive ability.

He was once referred to as Guy Lafleur’s defensive conscience during the Canadiens run of four Stanley Cups to close out the ‘70s.

His speed, anticipation and determination allowed Lafleur and linemate Steve Shutt to excel more offensively. Lemaire was the workhorse, winning the faceoffs, and digging pucks out of the scrums and getting the puck to his sharpshooting wingers.

In an interview with the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2007, Lemaire gave insight into the importance of a good defensive forward.

"We talked more about defence than offence. It was always there. I remember my first year playing for Toe Blake -- he was always talking about it.

On the bench, he'd be telling us if this guy or that guy didn't come back on defence and he would bench them. You hear people say their team needs more offence and forget defence.

That's crap! Defence is what we talked about. Somebody has to get back and help the defense. We knew we could score enough goals. We didn't want to give goals to the opponent because if they got a goal, we had to get two."

Jacques_Lemaire Lemaire’s defensive capabilities made the Canadiens top scoring line even harder to play against, and he never went a season, since his rookie debut in 1967, without scoring less than twenty goals in a season. He’s finish with 365 goals (7th in Habs history) and 469 assists (5th) for 835 points (7th) in 853 regular season games. Lemaire had a career plus/minus of +349.

During the playoffs, Lemaire brought it up another notch. His 139 career playoff points put him second behind Jean Beliveau. He played on eight Stanley Cup winners with the Canadiens.

He had three overtime playoff goals in his career including Cup clinchers in 1977 and 1979. Only five other players have scored more than one overtime Cup winner.

Not positive, but could be Lemaire’s Cup winner in the 1977 Finals.

His 1979 Cup winning goal would be his last in the NHL.

Lemaire retired from the NHL and spent two seasons as a player-coach in Switzerland. He later returned to become head coach with Montreal at the end of the 1983-84 season, taking the team to the Wales Conference Finals. The following season, Montreal finished first in their division, but lost in the second round of the playoffs.

That summer, Lemaire became a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame as a player.

The pressure of coaching in Montreal grew too hard for Lemaire and the following season he moved to the front office to become the Assistant to the Managing Director for eight seasons. The Canadiens would claim two more Stanley Cups (1986, 1993) over that span.

He then took a position as head coach with the New Jersey Devils in 1993 and developed what is now known as the “Trap" System”. He would win the Jack Adams award as coach of the year that season.

Coupled with the goaltending of Martin Brodeur, the Devils won the Stanley Cup in 1995 and Lemaire remained with New Jersey until 1998.


He was hired as the first coach of the Minnesota Wild in 2000, winning a second Adams Award in 2003, remaining there until he stepped down until the spring of 2009, returning to New Jersey.

After one final season with the Devils, he retired as an NHL coach in April of 2010 with 588 wins and a .561 win percentage.


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