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?