After a vote of confidence from the general manager and a still-burning passion for coaching, Devils’ coach Jacques Lemaire decided to call it quits after one season.
“After reflection and 17 years of coaching, I decided to retire,” Lemaire said to Tom Gulitti of the Bergen Record. “It’s tough to leave what you like aside, but it’s a decision that I made and I will do.”
Lemaire originally thought of retiring last year, when he left the Minnesota Wild. But Lou Lamoriello went to Lemaire’s house in Montreal, convincing him to come back to coach the team this season.
Lemaire returned because he believed the Devils could win the Stanley Cup this season, a dream that ended Thursday night.
“When I accepted this (job), I thought we had a chance to go for the Cup and this is the reason why I accepted it,” he said to Gulitti. “You talk about frustration, it is. After one series, you’re out when you’re think of maybe making two, three, four.”
Lemaire said the Devils’ first-round exit isn’t the reason for his retirement. He said it was based solely on not having the energy to make it through an entire season.
“The year went really well. It’s not the problems that you have with the players. It’s nothing. It’s part of the game. It’s not the team. It’s not the lack of result that we had in the playoffs. It’s not that at all. I just find that it’s the end of the line. I’ll be 65. It’s just time.”
Lemaire will remain with the organization in a capacity to be determined later.
The Devils will now hire their 11th coach since 1997-1998. In the five seasons since the lockout, the Devils have had five different head coaches – including Lamoriello (twice).
Lemaire took over last season for Brent Sutter, who decided to leave the organization to be closer to his family in Alberta, Canada. The former coach took the head coaching job for the Calgary Flames. Lemaire, hired on July 13, 2009, led the Devils to a 48-27-7 (103 points), their ninth Atlantic Division title and second seed in the conference. But the Devils were eliminated in the five games by the Philadelphia Flyers.
The 65-year old Lemaire, who guided the Devils to their first Stanley Cup in 1995, retired with a 588-441-183 record with 1, 213 NHL regular season games. He is the Devils’ all-time leader with 247 wins behind the bench.