Jacques Lemaire won't return

New Jersey Devils coach Jacques Lemaire will not return next season, he told the Star-Ledger of Newark, N.J., on Wednesday.

“No [I won’t return even if I’m asked]. Because I find that it’s tough,” Lemaire, 65, said, according to the newspaper. “I’m not at the end of the season yet. I still have two to three months to go and we’ll have tough days. You get back from road trips, I get more tired than when I was 40.”

Lemaire, who led the Devils to their first Stanley Cup in franchise history in 1994-95, retired from coaching following the end of the 2009-10 season. However, his retirement didn’t last long.

Still under contract with the team as a consultant, Lemaire believed it was the right thing to do and accept the interim head coach position when he was asked by general manager Lou Lamoriello on Dec. 23.

Lemaire replaced his successor, John MacLean, who — with the franchise off to one of its worst starts in history — was fired by Lamoriello 33 games into this season.

The Devils, who went just 9-22-2 under MacLean, have started to turn things around under Lemaire. They lost seven of their first eight games with him behind the bench, but have won six of their past seven, and enter Wednesday night’s game against the Detroit Red Wings having ac*****ulated 13 of the past 14 possible points.

Still, New Jersey has the worst record (16-29-3) and fewest points (35) in the NHL, and is in danger of missing the playoffs for the first time since 1995-96. The Devils are 20 points behind the Atlanta Thrashers for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

Lemaire told the Star-Ledger he’s enjoyed himself since returning to coaching.


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