After first-round exit, are Devils due for changes?

“I need a nap.”

Jacques Lemaire, his ears all but bleeding from pounding his head against the wall, couldn’t take any more.

Not last night, after his wonderfully talented Devils, uninterested in his message, heedless of his words, exited the playoffs at the hands of the Flyers.

He’s a 64-year-old with superb credentials, including making the Devils winners for the first time, in 1995. They begged him to return and reinvent them in their former image.

Lemaire and his terrifying slap shot won eight Stanley Cups as a player with Montreal, then got two more with the team in its front office before he began standing behind benches. As such, he expected his instructions to be followed exactly, especially by the team he was hired to teach how to win playoff series after losing first-round series the past 2 years.

He instructed them to play simply, and tough, to fire pucks and follow, to play with discipline and selflessness. Lemaire was ignored, it seems. And so, the Devils, losers last night, 3-0, are done in five games, their third straight quick finale.

“This happens when you don’t have everyone believing in what you have to do to win,” Lemaire said. “We didn’t play playoff hockey.”

He was eloquently eviscerating afterward . . . but not to the men who failed him.

His team scoreless at full strength the last three games, toothless on the power play, Lemaire was done preaching to heathens deafened by their own arrogance.

“I didn’t talk to them,” Lemaire said. “When I’m upset, I can’t talk to players.”

He was upset. Seething, angry, mystified and frustrated, asking himself, “Why did I return when they don’t listen?”

With the series even after two games, Lemaire saw the fissures. He knew, after 15 years at this job, the fissures would become cracks, then craters, swallowing whole the Devils’ hopes.

“I thought, as the series went on, we would correct that. We didn’t,” Lemaire said. “There were little things. Battles here, battles there. A sharpness of the individual. Being really positive on everything. When you try to change certain things, you have their look that tells you they understand and they want to do it.”

He paused, defeated.

“There was a little lack there.”

So, where do they go now?

They switched coaches in the offseason; Brent Sutter took the fall for the first two playoff collapses, resigning and landing behind Calgary’s bench.

They added a rental star, Ilya Kovalchuk , who now is a free agent they are unlikely to re-sign despite Lemaire’s professed appreciation and Kovalchuk’s professed satisfaction with the team.

They got a very good year out of veteran goalie Martin Brodeur .

And they finished 2-9 against the Flyers overall this season, a team they used to own.

3 Responses to After first-round exit, are Devils due for changes?

  1. cam7777 says:

    They seem to really love Kovalchuk in New Jersey, despite everything.  But who moves if they decide to resign him?   Even at a discount, he won't take much less than 8, and I think New Jersey really has to address their back-end as well.  Could make for an interesting summer…

  2. reinjosh says:

    yeah and its not like he didn't produce. But it depends on whether he can fit into the system and then if they can fit him under the cap. And they might need to find him a proper center. Zajac did nothing with him.

  3. Kramer says:

    Craig Anderson got scored on cuz he was watching the chicks nearby. Goalies gotta keep their minds clean. It's not easy. Raycroft's career went south because his mind was in the gutter.

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