Jacques Lemaire

Jacques Lemaire played 12 incredible seasons with the Montreal Canadiens. In that time Lemaire was definitely one of the most underrated superstars in NHL history. A tremendously gifted two way center, Lemaire was never named as a NHL all star due to a glut of superstar centers during the 1970s - players such as Bobby Clarke, Phil Esposito, Gilbert Perreault and Bryan Trottier. He never won a major NHL award and he never was invited to play for Team Canada. While he never quite achieved superstar status he did help the Habs win 8 Stanley Cup championships in his 12 years!

In typical Montreal Canadiens style during that era, Lemaire was eased into the NHL. Despite a spectacular junior career with the Jr. Canadiens, Lemaire was sent to the minors for some seasoning. He would score 19 goals and 49 points but more importantly he polished off his defensive game.

Lemaire joined the Habs in the 1967-68 season. Centering a line with Bobby Rousseau and Dick Duff, Lemaire was edged out for the Calder Trophy as best rookie by Boston's Derek Sanderson. Lemaire scored 22 goals and 20 assists.

Lemaire, who would spend part of his career centering the great Guy Lafleur and Steve Shutt, was consistent offensively. He never scored less than 20 goals in any season of his career. He scored a career high 44 goals in the 1972-73 season. His best offensive season however came in 1977-78 when he scored a career high 61 assists and 97 points. In 853 games Lemaire scored 835 points (366 goals - 469 assists). He had a lazer of a shot, thanks to his practicing with a heavy steel puck.

Lemaire was an extremely clean player. He only racked up 217 PIMs in over 800 games. A tremendous skater with great anticipation skills, of all the greats who played with the Montreal dynasty of the 1970s perhaps Lemaire understood the game of hockey better than anyone.

Lemaire was also a clutch performer come playoff time. In 145 post-season games, Lemaire scored 61 goals and 78 assists for 139 points. Two of his goals were Stanley Cup clinchers (1977 and 1979).

After the 1979 Cup win, Lemaire retired from the NHL. He went over to Switzerland for a couple of years where he became a coach. He would return to the Montreal organization part way through the 1984 season as head coach, but stepped down at the end of the season.

Lemaire left the Habs to become head coach of the New Jersey Devils in 1993. Lemaire quickly built the lowly Devils into a Cup contender. In 1994 he was named Coach of the Year. The following year he guided the Devils to the Stanley Cup. For Lemaire, it was his ninth Stanley Cup championship, his first as a coach.

By this time Lemaire was heralded as a top defensive coach in all of hockey, perfecting the stifling neutral zone trap that defined New Jersey and later the Minnesota Wild where he coached for many years, too.


  © Blogger templates Newspaper III by 2008

Back to TOP