Canadiens should ask Jacques Lemaire to name his price

money talks, and when it comes to hiring coaches, there is no salary cap. Phil Jackson money would be ridiculous in the NHL – but Jacques Lemaire is surely worth at least half as much as Scott Gomez.

What is the going rate for a superb NHL coach? Right now, Mike Bab***** is believed to be the highest-paid coach in the league at about $2 million a season.

So what do you want? Would Lemaire go back behind the bench for that much or a little more, over three seasons? Only one way to find out, right? As for the cost to the Canadiens, one modest playoff run would more than cover the entire cost of the contract.

Why would Geoff Molson and Marc Bergevin want to consider Lemaire? Because (with the possible exception of Ken Hitch*****) he’s the smartest coach in the NHL. And because if Lemaire decided to throw his hat into the ring, there’s no coach in the running who can touch him in sheer coaching ability, and that includes Alain Vigneault.

There’s a reason Lemaire worked with Lou Lamoriello all those years. I consider Lamoriello the smartest GM in the league. Lemaire was a coach smart enough for Lamoriello. Smarts aren’t everything: Jean Perron has a Stanley Cup ring, after all. But smart gives you a chance. Smart can produce a quick turnaround for a mediocre team. (See Hitch***** in St. Louis.) Smart builds a system that endures long after the coach who put it together has left: it’s happened here twice, with Lemaire and Pat Burns.

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