With Montreal, the Devils and Minnesota, Jacques Lemaire earned a reputation as as defensive coach. So, on the day Lemaire was hired to return to the Devils for a second stint as their head coach, there were immediate questions about whether the team would become a more conservative offensive team after two seasons in which Brent Sutter pushed the team to be more aggressive on the forecheck while still being solid defensively.
Lemaire was asked if the Devils will be a more offensive team than the teams he's had in the past.
"The teams I used to have? Probably," he said. "You look at what they did last year. They did great. They were solid defensively and offensively and that's a goal I want ot have."
Another goal Lemaire has is to "do as much as we can in the playoffs."
Lemaire was asked specifically about Zach Parise, who emerged as an offensive star in his two years under Brent Sutter. Will Parise be allowed to continue to play the same way under Lemaire?
"I don't know what will be put in (sytematically) that is going to stop any of the players to perform at their best," Lemaire said. "I know Parise a little bit just from watching his games. He's a kid that works offensively and he works defensively. And I know that I had other players that were more focused on offense and I know how I worked with these players. I showed they could work offensively, but put at least one player who is really good defensively on his line, so he can excel offensively.
"So, I'm not the coach that will stop any of the guys to (be able to) perform, to do what their good at and what they excel at."
Lemaire was also asked about Brian Rolston, who had three consecutive 30-goal seasons under Lemaire in Minnesota before signing with the Devils last summer. Rolston struggled last season under Sutter, however, and had just 15 goals and 17 assists in 64 games (he missed 18 with a high-ankle sprain).
"Brian is a good shooter," Lemaire said. "He's a guy that stays in shape pretty well and he's a guy that has to be put in the right situation. I'm not saying that Brent didn't do this because I thought he did a tremendous job with the team. But (Rolston) is a guy that we have to stay close to him. We have to talk to him and to demand a little more and that's my intention. That's what I did when he was in Minny and we'll try to repeat what he did there."
How is Lemaire different as coach now than when he left 11 years ago?
"I always felt that I understand the players and trying to find their needs," he said. "But, I think with the time maybe it's the team that demands that. I talk more and more with the players. In the old days, I guess you were giving restrictions to the players and let them go for a long time. I think right now a player needs the coaching staff to be close to them, so they can perform at their best, see what their needs are. This is a thing that has changed in me and, you know, the game (has changed). At a time, we had more of a defensive crew and you're going on and you're teaching more defense than offense because you feel that you can win games. And now with times and with the type of players that we have there is a look offense, there's a look for trying to create more.
"I guess every coach is pretty much the same. We're trying to get the best game possible, the best action game as possible for the fans."
Lemaire said the chance to work with Lamoriello again was an important factor in his decision.
"I like to work for a person that I know well and I think I know Lou very well," Lemaire said. "I know how he works, what he wants, what he likes and what he dislikes. Also, you look at the team. The team is very stable. You look at the past years. It's a team that's doing very good. I know in the playoffs the last few years it's been a little tougher, but that will be a goal that all of the coaching staff will have. Also, thes supporters. I had a great time here in New Jersey in the '90s and I have just great memories and I'll try to get some more.
Lemaire believes coming back to the Devils gives him a chance to win the Stanley Cup again.
"I've been 15 years coaching and there's not a lot of things as a coach when you've been involved 15 years," he said. "You're looking at a team. You want to have a chance to win the Cup. There's no doubt about that. Especially in my situation, this would be a great thing to have a chance. Don't forget there are 30 teams that are talking exactly the same. That's what they want: a chance to win the Cup. And I want to be part of this and if there's a chance I would love to get another one."
Other things Lemaire discussed today:
On being approached about the job by Lou Lamoriello.
"Lou approached me some time before the draft and because he said that he was really busy (then), he would call me back. Then, he called me back a week later."
On his thoughts about how many games Martin Brodeur will start and how much he rests:
"All of that will depend upon how he feels, how things are going, how he plays, how the other goalie will play. So, we'll try to find a good standard there that he's happy and the other goalie happy."
On bringing along Mario Tremblay as his assistant and his role with the team:
"He's be in charge of the defense behind the bench. Why did I bring him? I've been nine years with him and I think he's a great complement of myself. He's a guy (who is) very determined, works hard, is in shape and he's fun for the players. And he knows how to deal with them in practices when he has to train players. He knows how to manage that situation very well."
On whether he looked at the team prior to July 1 to see how certain players might fit into the way he wants to play:
"Not really because Sutter was there at that time. There was no need for me to look at anything. They had other stuff in mind they were working on. It was only after that, when I saw that he was leaving and not even then. It was when Lou called me that I started to look at the team."
On what he looked at when he did start studying the team:
"Just to look at the team overall, look at what they did last year: their penalty kill, their power play, their offense, the players that were minus (defensively). All different stuff. Who played with who? And I had some games here (on video) that I looked at just to get a good feel. What I see is a good offense, good skills. I see defensemen (who are) very mobile and can bring the puck out of the zone well. They have good hockey sense. So, I think it will be exciting to work with these people."
That's all of the Lemaire comments from today. I'm working on getting player reaction and hope to talk with Lamoriello again as well.