Sports Outside the Beltway

NJ Devils hire Jacques Lemaire to be head coach

This will be his second stint in New Jersey. From AP-

After six years without a Stanley Cup, the New Jersey Devils are handing over the team to the coach who led them to their first NHL title.

Jacques Lemaire, who coached the Devils for five seasons in the mid 1990s and led them to the Cup in 1995, is New Jersey’s coach again. He was hired on Monday, some five weeks after Brent Sutter resigned and eventually took over as coach of the Calgary Flames.

“I never thought I would be back,” the 63-year-old Lemaire said in a conference call. “I said at that time when I was leaving after five years, and it was five great years, I wanted to cherish this for the rest of my life and the rest of my career, but I never thought one day I would come back.”

The deal reunites Lemaire with general manager and president Lou Lamoriello and goaltender Martin Brodeur, the combination that turned that Devils from a contender to a champion in 1995.

“Jacques Lemaire is one of the most respected coaches in the game,” Lamoriello said. “He is a teacher and a communicator, and knows what it takes to have success.”

The Devils also won Stanley Cups in 2000 and 2003, but they have not come close in recent years. They were eliminated in the opening round of the playoffs the past two seasons under Sutter.

Lemaire has been a very successful coach in the NHL. His Minnesota Wild teams had a very distinct style of play. Will Lemaire try to force the same system on the Devils? New Jersey has much more offensive punch than the Wild ever had. I think Lemaire will adapt to the personnel he will have in New Jersey. The Devils are good enough to make the Stanley Cup finals again IMHO.


NJ Devils Coach Brent Sutter resigns

He spent exactly two years in the job. From AP-

A homesick Brent Sutter resigned as coach of the New Jersey Devils after just two seasons, citing family reasons and scoffing at the idea that some may criticize him for leaving so soon.

“It might not be the right decision for some people and that’s fine,” Sutter said in a conference call from his home in Red Deer, Alberta. “I don’t look at it like I am quitting on anything. I threw two years of my life and made a big commitment 3,000 miles away from where my life was and tried to do everything I possibly could to accomplish a goal. So by me doing that my life has suffered in other areas, and those areas to me are bigger than the game.”

Sutter said the Devils’ crushing loss to the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 7 of their first-round Eastern Conference playoff series had nothing to do with his decision.

New Jersey, which won its seventh Atlantic Division title in 12 years this past spring, ended its season by giving up two goals in the final 80 seconds to lose 4-3 in late April.

The Devils season ended in disappointment, but honestly they had a heck of a year. Brodeur was injured for half the season and the team rode it out very well without their star Goalie. Many teams would have struggled in the same situation.

Homesickness as a reason to quit coaching(or politics). I never heard that one before. On the other hand, the arguably best known family in North American professional hockey has been known to be close knit.


Former NHL player Peter Zezel dead at 44

His best seasons were with the Philadelphia Flyers in the mid-1980′s. The AP article makes no mention of the controversy at the end of Zezel’s career. He had a niece who was very ill in the Toronto area, so Zezel requested a trade to an Eastern team. At the time Zezel was playing for the Vancouver Canucks. The Canucks traded him, but to Anaheim the team furthest from Toronto in the NHL. Zezel retired rather than play for the Ducks. The trade, made by then Canuck GM Brian Burke, was heavily criticized at the time. RIP.

Peter Zezel, a center who played 15 NHL seasons after breaking into the league with the Philadelphia Flyers as a teenager, has died. He was 44.

Zezel struggled with the rare blood disease hemolytic anemia for the past 10 years and died on Tuesday. Zezel suffered from the ailment off and on, but had rebounded after being in critical condition in 2001.

He was admitted to the hospital last week for scheduled surgery, but complications developed and his conditioned worsened.

“Peter will forever be remembered as a great teammate and a wonderful individual who touched the lives of many both on and off the ice,” Zezel’s family said in a statement released by the National Hockey League Players’ Association. “In his typical character of generosity, Peter donated his organs through the Trillium Gift of Life Network.”

The gritty center was known on the ice for his strong two-way game. In 873 NHL games with Philadelphia, St. Louis, Washington, Toronto, Dallas, New Jersey and Vancouver, Zezel had 219 goals and 389 assists.

His matinee idol looks also earned him a small role in the 1986 hockey-based movie “Youngblood” that starred Rob Lowe and Patrick Swayze.

Zezel was born in Toronto and played junior hockey with the Toronto Marlies before the Flyers chose him with the 41st pick in the 1983 draft. He made his NHL debut in 1984 when he was 19.


NJ Devil Center Bobby Holik retires

He was a member of the ‘Crash line’, a feature of the Devil teams that won the Stanley Cup in 1995 and 2000. Enjoy your retirement Bobby.

Veteran center Bobby Holik is retiring after 18 seasons, 11 of those with New Jersey Devils, the New York Post reported.

“I’m done. I’m retiring,” Holik told the Post from his home in Wyoming. “I miss being with my family every day. I knew when the season ended, but I wanted to leave and get home first, and not make a big deal of it.

“A player is what I was. Now I’m a husband and a father.”

The 38-year-old Holik was picked 10th overall by the Hartford Whalers in 1989. He was traded to New Jersey with Jay Pandolfo for Sean Burke and Eric Weinrich on Aug 28, 1992. He, Mike Peluso and Randy McKay made up the Crash Line and helped the Devils win the Stanley Cup in 1995 and 2000.

Holik signed with the New York Rangers in 2002. He played two seasons with the Rangers before the salary cap forced a buy out.

Holik then played for the Atlanta Thrashers for three seasons, and was captain in 2007-08. He returned to the Devils last season. Holik played 1,314 regular season games with 1,423 penalty minutes and a plus-115 rating.


Washington and Carolina advance in Stanley Cup playoffs

The last two first round series concluded last night. First Washington rallied to eliminate the New York Rangers.

Fedorov beat Henrik Lundqvist with 4:59 left in the third period, rookie Simeon Varlamov was good in the net when he had to be, and the second-seeded Capitals edged the No. 7 New York Rangers 2-1 in Game 7 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal Tuesday night.

If Washington coach Bruce Boudreau had stuck with the veteran Theodore as Goalie, The Rangers would have advanced. It was a gutsy decision.

New Jersey was victimized by two late Carolina goals in their loss.

Jussi Jokinen and Eric Staal scored in a 48-second span late in the third period as the Hurricanes stunned the Devils 4-3 in Game 7 of their Eastern Conference series.

To me, Carolina’s win is more surprising than Anaheim knocking off San Jose.

The conference semi-finals are set. My predictions are-

Boston takes Carolina 4 games to 1. I think the Bruins are the best team still in the playoffs.
Washington beats Pittsburgh 4 games to 3. Can Varlamov stand the pressure of Crosby, Malkin, and company? He better, otherwise the Capitals will make mincemeat of Theodore.


Slap shot- Carolina beats NJ 2-1 in overtime

The win evens the first round Stanley Cup playoff series at one game a piece. From AP-

A couple of fortunate bounces got the Carolina Hurricanes even in the their playoff series with the New Jersey Devils and made an earlier dismal performance by the ‘Candy Canes’ seem a distant memory.

Defenseman Tim Gleason scored his first NHL playoff goal and first of the season with a slap shot off the skate of a Devils defenseman at 2:40 of overtime, and the Hurricanes beat the Devils 2-1 Friday night, tying their first round playoff series at a game apiece.

“It was a good pass by Joe Corvo,” Gleason said after his shot from the point deflected off the skate of Niklas Havelid into the net. “He laid it right out there for me. Eric Staal had a great screen in front of the net. I closed my eyes and shot that thing as hard as I could.”

Havelid wasn’t sure if the puck hit him.

“It’s one of those unlucky ones,” Havelid said.

Unlucky for New Jersey but good luck for Carolina. Goals all season long are scored after being deflected.

An interesting fact about Carolina’s win- They are 5 for 5 in playoff games vs New Jersey that go to overtime. I still think New Jersey will come out on top in this series.

Elsewhere in the NHL playoffs.

Vancouver beat St. Louis 3-0 in spite of being out shot 30-27. Vancouver is now up two games to none I see the Blues making a quick exit. They may not even one game against the Vancouver Canucks.

Pittsburgh takes advantage of 5-3 overtime power play to beat Philadelphia 3-2. They are also up 2 games to none but I expect the Flyers not to go down quietly.


Minnesota Wild coach Jacques Lemaire to retire

He is the only head coach in the franchise’s history. From AP-

The Wild have scheduled a news conference for Monday morning to make the news official and discuss plans for the future of the position.

“I think it’s time for the players to get a new coach and myself to look for other stuff,” Lemaire told writers from the Star Tribune of Minneapolis and the St. Paul Pioneer Press after the season finale at Columbus. “I always said there’ll be a time. There comes a time that you know it’s the right time to go, and I know this. I had a great time, man. I had eight great years.”

General manager Doug Risebrough hired his former Montreal teammate and good buddy Lemaire to preside over the expansion team, which began play in 2000. Lemaire used his superior strategic sense and defensive acumen to lead the team to the Western Conference finals in 2003 and to a Northwest Division title last season.

Lemaire was 291-256-107 with the Wild, including winning records in his last six seasons. Despite several significant injuries to Marian Gaborik, Brent Burns and Pierre-Marc Bouchard, the Wild barely missed the playoffs this season.

The 2008-09 season was a frustrating one for the Wild. While there is no disputing Lemaire built an expansion Minnesota into a competitive NHL team, I think he outlived his usefulness to the franchise.

Lemaire who previously coached New Jersey and Montreal may find head coaching work again. The turnover rate in the NHL is very high.


Goalie Martin Brodeur records 100th career shutout

He only needs four more to have the most in NHL history. From AP-

Martin Brodeur has found the New Jersey Devils have changed during his almost four-month injury absence. This is a team that not only plays defense, it scores early and often.

Brodeur earned his 100th NHL regular-season shutout with a 27-save effort, and the Devils extended their lead in the Atlantic Division with a 3-0 victory over the second-place Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday.

The shutout was the second in three games since Brodeur returned Thursday following recovery from elbow surgery, and this one moved him within three of tying Terry Sawchuk’s mark of 103. It was also Brodeur’s 547th career victory, moving him within four of tying Patrick Roy’s league record.

Brodeur gave up two goals in the other game, a 7-2 rout of the Florida Panthers. With their ace back in net, I think New Jersey is the team to beat in the Eastern Conference.


He’s back- Martin Brodeur and NJ Devils shutout Colorado 4-0

It was his 99th whitewash of his career, and 3rd in elevens of a season he has mostly been absent from due to injury. From AP-

Martin Brodeur recorded his 99th career regular-season shutout, making 24 saves in his first game since elbow surgery in early November and the New Jersey Devils beat the Colorado Avalanche 4-0 on Thursday night.


Brodeur posted his third shutout in 11 games this season to move within four of Terry Sawchuk’s regular-season career mark of 103, and reached 545 victories to close within six of tying Patrick’s Roy’s NHL record.

The four-time Vezina Trophy winner as hockey’s best goalie was greeted by a standing ovation from fans when he stepped on the ice for the warmups and they cheered every time he touched the puck, even when he simply directed it to the corner.

With Brodeur back in goal and some of the league’s highest scorers in Zach Parise and Patrik Elias, the Devils could be the team to beat in the Eastern Conference. Next up for them is my favorite team the Florida Panthers. Can Florida punch through enough goals to beat Brodeur?


NJ Devil Goalie Martin Brodeur to return to lineup this week

To make room on the roster for the future Hall of Famer, New Jersey demoted Scott Clemmensen. From ESPN-

The New Jersey Devils have activated four-time Vezina Trophy winner Martin Brodeur from the injured reserve list, sending Scott Clemmensen back to their AHL affiliate in Lowell, Mass., despite his 25-13-1 record this season.

The move clears the way for Brodeur to start Thursday’s game against the Colorado Avalanche.

Brodeur tore a biceps in his left elbow in a game against Atlanta on Nov. 1 and had surgery days later.

In his absence, Clemmensen and Kevin Weekes have combined for 32 wins to help New Jersey move into first place in the Atlantic Division. Weekes is 7-4 with a 2.32 goals-against average and a .924 save percentage; Clemmensen has a 2.39 GAA and .917 save percentage.

If it had been up to me, I would have demoted Weekes. Neither of these guys can be expected to play much if Brodeur is back to his ironman status of starting 70 games a season.


Visitors Since Feb. 4, 2003

All original content copyright 2003-2008 by OTB Media. All rights reserved.