Johnny Mac is gone. It's finally official and Devils fans can stop complaining about having a coach that looks like he's in over his head. The question now, however, is what's going to happen to the Devils under Jacques Lemaire? Why bring Jacques Lemaire back to coach the Devils just simply for the remainder of this season? I think one paticular quote from Lou Lamoriello (per Tom Gulitti) tells the entire story:
"I asked him if he would come back for the second half so we can see exaclty who we are and where we’re at."
I don't think this a desperate move to save the season, though Lou does seem to still have hope that things can be turned around. From that one quote and what I already know about the way Lou works, it looks like he brought Lemaire back so that the Devils would know where they were going forward. Blame Lemaire for what short-comings you will from last season, but the dude's a hockey genius. He has a gift with gettng players to be defensively responsible and utilizing sub-par defensemen to create a good defensive hockey team (just look at last year's team for evidence of that: missing Paul Martin for 50 games and using the likes of Mike Mottau they still managed to finish with the fewest goals allowed last season. Granted, that was because Brodeur was also rather beastly, but still). With a slew of defensive miscues marring this season - and yes, there are way more problems than that - Lemaire brings to the table a polished hockey mind that can help the young defensemen (Fraser, Fayne, Taormina, when he gets back) adjust to playing hockey at the NHL level.
He can also, hopefully, rid the veterens of whatever ails they are suffering mentally. Remember, while Lemaire was criticized heavily for how he handled the second half of last season, the Devils were a legit top team in the Eastern Conference in th first half. They managed to almost keep pace with the Capitals until somewhere around the halfway point, when the team began struggling. If it was truly because he lost steam, then the fact that he's taking over with the season already hafway over has to be a plus. He may not make them Stanley Cup contenders again thi year, but he will be able to do his primary job: figure out what the Devils have. That means figuring out who they need for next season; who needs to go; who they need to get Kovalchuk moving (I'm going to note here that Lemaire, while also criticized for his handling of Kovalchuk, did have Gaborik on the Wild, who was a big time goal scorer, and managed to have Rolston score 30 goals in a season, so he does know how to utilize offensive weapons. It could have simply been last year the same problem they're having this year: who do you have that can keep up with him?); and possibly a couple of auditions of rookies late in the season if they can't turn the ship around.
The basic thing that we, as fans, need to realize is that this is not a permanent fix. This is not Lou praying for a miracle. It's a measured move to figure out what they have for next year. Is the team giving up this season as a lost cause? Maybe, but I doubt it. But Lou does have his eyes where they need to be: the future of the franchise. This move gives him time to figure out who they need to bring in, who they need to kick out, what kind of coach they'll need for next season and the time to find that coach. The name of the game now is patience, and, of course, to remember, in Lou we trust.