As the Devils ice their fifth win in a row against Carolina tonight, I noticed a trend in most of the interviews of the players throughout. When asked about the success the Devils are currently experiencing, all of the players responses included praise of Jacques Lemaire and his "system." As we all know, the Devils record since Lemaire took the reins two days before Christmas is 14-8-2 (13-1-2 in the last 16.)
If you have been watching the team all season as I have I'm sure you have noticed the incredible transformation this team has made. Right now the team is playing as well as I can remember. The biggest difference in my eyes is the play of the defense. The back checking has been superb and the play in front of the goaltenders is much improved. These traits can obviously be attributed to the Coaching of Jacques Lemaire. This article from the Associated Press via CBS New York has a lot of great insight into what specifically Jacques has done since he took over.
With this monumental turn around you have to ask yourself, "Is Jacques Lemaire the NHL's 2011 Coach of the Year?" I don't think it is premature to ask this question. The NHL website offers a detailed description of the Jack Adams Award. "The Jack Adams Award is an annual award presented by the National Hockey League Broadcasters' Association to the NHL coach adjudged to have contributed the most to his team's success." As examined by the NHL's website, should he receive the award, it would be his third such award and his second with the Devils. Only the late and former Devils coach Pat Burns has won three Jack Adams Awards, (although none with the Devils.)
Regardless of whether the Devils can complete a miracle run at the playoffs or not, I think it is safe to say that any success that can be extruded from this capricious season is a direct result of the third coming of Jacques Lemaire. Lemaire instills confidence and sets goals. The Devils goal since December has been to be the best team in the NHL in the second half of this season. Lemaire has put the Devils on that path and deserves all the accolades that will come with it.
What do you think? Am I completely off base with this? Is there a better candidate out there?
”All that means is that I'll be 783 years old when I catch Scotty Bowman.” - Kevin Constantine