Lemaire!

This is Jacques Lemaire as a teenager. The words “Jacques Lemaire” and “teenager” really don’t belong in the same sentence. Jacques Lemaire has come to personify a style of hockey that looks exactly like observing a piece of dried bovine dung for 2.5 hours.

It’s extremely effective. I happen to like the style of play, which makes me a minority and that’s an understatement. Why do I like Jacques Lemaire hockey? Well, everyone does their job and his teams usually boast a variety of skills. He has aggressive checking forwards who are usually a little undersized, mobile defenders who stay in the lane and don’t wander after the puck in their own zone, and a series of offensively gifted thoroughbreds up front who spend their youth champing at the bit and dreaming of a place where they can run free.

That place is last place.

When Lemaire arrived in the NHL he was a strong candidate for the Calder but lost it because Derek Sanderson had a wider range of skills. Seriously. Sanderson was a wonderful faceoff man from the get-go, an excellent PK man (with Dman turned RW Eddie Westfall they were a legendary forward combo) and Lemaire was a center who played left wing (Habs had Believeau, Henri Richard and Backstrom which was an incredible top 3C) who wasn’t close to being good enough for a checking role (Gilles Tremblay and John Ferguson were the better choices).

Lemaire developed into a quality centerman who was vital to the success of Yvan Cournoyer and Guy Lafleur, two exceptional skill wingers who were actually more “rovers” (Lafleur lined up at right wing but he was all over hell’s half acre all night and Cournoyer was a blur) and he in fact buggered up Lafleur’s career stats when he became his coach.

I remember Danny Gallivan saying “Lemaire” with such vigor and excitement you knew bad things were about to happen (I hated the Habs) and they usually did, and often against my beloved Bruins and Bobby Orr.

Jacques Lemaire is rated by pretty much everyone as being one of the top coaches in the NHL. He is a button-down guy whose team resembles him but also has enough jam to score the first goal of the game often enough to make the playoffs each season and be positively dangerous every spring.

If his health holds, Jacques Lemaire will bring the Stanley to Minnesota. Does anyone doubt this?

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11 Responses to "Lemaire!"

  1. matt says:

    I absolutely doubt that Lemaire in Minnesota will never win a Stanley Cup.
    The karma of hockey gods will assert themselves and frustrate the entire Lemaire ethic.
    Lemaire is a blight on modern hockey.
    In time, Lemaire-ism will force the NHL to do what the NBA had to resort to , namely penalizing teams that trap much like in NBA basketball teams are penalized for playing zone defence.
    At some point, hockey should about an exchange of skill, not the grinding ugliness of the trap.
    But, just for the record, Lemaire would be an upgrade from MacTavish.

  2. godot10 says:

    It’s not Lemaire’s fault that other teams don’t have the skill to break the trap.

    This was really the first time both PItkanen and Souray (and all the new young guys) have seen the Minnesota trap (in awhile anyway), so I’m not really to upset with the loss last night. What your coaches tell you to do against it won’t sink in until Minnesota has made you look like totally incompetent a couple of times.

    The Wild may now have enough skill players to win the Cup if they stay healthy. Detroit is old, and Anaheim isn’t as good as last year, and Ron Wilson will find some way to screw things up in San Jose.

    Based on the first weekend, my initial picks for the Cup final are actually Minnesota vs. Carolina.

  3. Black Dog says:

    Ah, LT, anything could happen but I doubt it – the Wild are a nice squad but what they have may get it done against the Oiler kids but against team with a real PP, experience and some size – not going to do it.

    You have to score some goals and the Wild scored one when JFJ blew a coverage and another on a broken play. Other then that they were meh. I agree that Lemaire is a terrific coach – hell, its like watching a bunch of robots out there – but you need talent too at some point. Even Jersey had a few legitimate Hall of Famers when they won with their system.

  4. Ribs says:

    The only way Lemaire and Minnesota get a cup is if no one else wants the thing.

    Lemaire’s best chance is in the Western Conference experiencing a large, unseen before, talent drought. In consecutive seasons.
    The problem with his system is that it doesn’t translate into playoff hockey. Grinding teams into submission isn’t as easy a task when the other guys know the cup is on the line.

    I’m afraid the “Wild” are doomed to mediocrity with Lemaire behind the wheel.

    …I suppose if they found the next Brodeur they might be on to something….

  5. Art Vandelay says:

    The Wild will win the Cup when they bore to death their opposition in four consecutive series. In that light, it’s entirely possible.

  6. Ducey says:

    The Wild thing works in the regular season but it aint going to work in the playoffs. In the playoffs everyone can play the trap and play physical. Then it comes down to talent and ability to open it up to make a comeback when down a few goals.

    Youneverknow but I doubt Lemaire will win a cup with this team.

    Their name is ironic, eh? Maybe they should change it to the “Dull”.

  7. Bank Shot says:

    The Wild don’t really grind per say.

    Not in the physical sense of the word anyhow. They just have excellent positioning and jump to loose pucks.

    And yeah, the system does work in the playoffs because the Wild have already made the conference finals with a much less talented team.

    It’s kind of fun to watch in a cruel sort of way when it’s your team trapping the other team into submission. Like when you held a toy over your younger brother’s head and made him jump for it, always keeping it just out of his reach.

    There’s a sinister delight in seeing your team dare their opponents to bring on the attack, only to send them scurrying back into their own end to retrieve the puck yet again. Or even better to catch them going the wrong direction, and then ram the puck down their throats with an odd man rush off a less then perfect pass.

    Much as I really don’t like the Wild, they seems like a team with as good a chance as any to reach the finals, and even win it, in the next few years.

  8. Rube Foster says:

    How about that slap shot from outside the blue line that blew up Tony Esposito and the Blackhawks in game seven of the the 1971 Stanley cup final?
    In his book the game, Ken Dryden sited Lemaire and Lapointe as the two key heart and soul guys on the habs seventies dynasty.
    You had the feeling with Lemaire that he could fill any role you needed from a forward. Need him to lead your team in points, OK. Need him to shutdown the the other teams best players, sure. He could play with Houle just as seamlessly as he could with the Roadrunner and and The Flower. Unlike a lot of players he never seemed to mind what role he was asked to play. He just went about his job with that steadfast kind of effort that yields terrific results. As Dryden pointed out when a guy as good as Lemaire selflessly puts the team’s goals above his personal goals it has a profound effect on the whole being of the team.
    The one thing that I’ve always had a bit of a disconnect with is that Lemaire’s coaching style is counter intuitive to the way I remember him on the ice. He didn’t quite have the flair of Cournoyer, LaFleur or the Mahovlich brothers but there was good reason Danny Galavin said his name with such authority and imminence. He was as dynamic as any player of his time. The guy had mad offensive skills and that amazing slapshot. Would it be a stretch to say Lemaire was Horcoff if Horc had Stoll’s shot and some of Hemsky offensive instincts? You get the picture. Anyway, I always wondered how do you get from being the core of the legendary Flying French Men to the Mastermind of the trap? Curious, non?

  9. Ribs says:

    The Wild don’t really grind per say.
    Not in the physical sense of the word anyhow. They just have excellent positioning and jump to loose pucks.

    Heh, well that’s one way to look at it. Kind of like how the trap has fifty different names now. It’s the same thing.

    And yeah, the system does work in the playoffs because the Wild have already made the conference finals with a much less talented team.

    Minnesota played an uninspired Colorado team in the first round and needed two consecutive overtime wins to take the 7 game series. The second round went to game 7 as well and they beat out a Vancouver team that was, well, Vancouver.
    Anaheim, who were riding Giguere to the finals, trampled Minnesota in the Conference Finals with a 4-0 series sweep.

    You can say that the system works in the playoffs if you want, but considering that they were one bouncing shot away from elimination three times in those playoffs, I have to disagree to some degree.

  10. Ribs says:

    My bad, twice.

  11. Rube Foster says:

    When Jacques won the Cup with the Devils he had Stevens, Niedermayer, and Brodeur to anchor his trap. I don’t see that level of HOF talent on the Wild and I don’t see a Cup in Minnesota’s near future. Mind you Lemaire has nine more Stanley Cups than I do so who knows?

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