When John Maclean was fired on December 23rd, I was one of the few who felt like the team had acted too rashly. I believed that the NJ Devils, one of the most successful franchises in the past 20 years, were simply having an off year and John Maclean had been blamed for too many of the team's issues. The Devils had been plagued by injuries and bad luck. I felt like Johnny Mac had the opportunity to gain valuable experience in the 2nd half of the year by taking on these challenges. I felt that taking on these challenges would ultimately make him a better coach.
It became obvious to me, even before the Devils had won 3 of their last 4, that Jacques is the right man to coach this Devils team for the rest of the year. Even in their losses, the Devils have shown their ability to compete. During NJ Devils tv broadcasts, Doc, Steve, Dano, and Chico always refer to such things as the "unseen hand" or the hockey gods that influence the results of games. The Devils have shown under Lemaire that working hard on a shift by shift basis is enough to get some breaks and play close games.
This has been symbolized by their tremendous 4th line combination of David Clarkson, Rod Pelley, and Tim Sestito. Though these players will never be prolific scorers, they earn regular shifts by checking their way to the top and playing responsible defense. Similar to the Crash Line, these players provide the effort needed to motivate a losing team. Credit Lemaire for seeing the potential in these muckers.
The teams failures are not all centered around Johnny Mac, but the effort and preparation of a team certainly fall on the coach. Lemaire has shown that he is the right man to prepare the Devils for next season and also reminded many Devils fans that winning can never be taken for granted, but must be earned.