Yesterday we had some news out of Montreal that the Leafs had contacted Jacques Lemaire, one of the most well-recognized coaches in league history, to join their bench as an assistant. Today the team made it official, adding Lemaire as a special assignment coach.
The first thing running through everyone’s mind is “This has Lou Lamoriello written all over it”, and obviously that’s warranted – Lamoriello and Lemaire have a ton of history going back to New Jersey. But there is a link to Mike Babcock as well, if we look at the 2010 Canadian Olympic team, where Lemaire served as an assistant while Babcock headed up things on the gold medal winning squad.
“Obviously Jacques Lemaire has a wealth of experience. We had a great relationship from the 2010 Olympics and I’ve asked him to join our staff to help me and the rest of our coaches within the entire organization be the best they can be”
Pretty cliche stuff, but it seems the Leafs wanted to make it clear Babcock reached out to Lemaire to help out.
Apparently the two have been well-acquainted for a while, going back nearly twelve years, as Babcock noted when Lamoriello was hired a couple weeks back.
“I didn’t know Lou at all until ’03 when we played them and I was coaching Anaheim. We lost to Jersey in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals. Since that time, I’m not trying to say we’re best friends or anything like that, but we developed a healthy relationship and a respect. I got to be good friends with Jacques Lemaire, had Jacques on my 2010 Olympic staff. I used Jacques as a sounding board, talked to him a lot about Lou.”
As for “special assignments”, I don’t know exactly what that will entail. Based on the quotes from Babcock, it seems like Lemaire is more of a coach of coaches, an advisor, more so than a hands-on assistant who deals directly with players. But that relationship will obviously be clearer when training camp and the upcoming season get underway.
Lemaire, as a head coach, is 12th all-time in games coached at the NHL level, with 1262, with a points-percentage of .563 which ranks him 19th among coaches with 600-or-more games behind the bench (from Hockey-Reference).