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Maple Leafs hire Jacques Lemaire

The Stanley Cup Champion player and coach will join the Leafs as a "special assignment coach"

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After retiring in 1979 from a wildly successful 12 season playing career, all with the Canadiens, Jacques Lemaire turned to coaching. He started in Montreal, and after a brief stint as head coach, moved to New Jersey where he coached the Devils for five seasons, winning the Stanley Cup in 1994-95. Lemaire's Devils became well known for their defensive play, and are linked in the minds of all who remember that era to the deployment of the neutral zone trap.

Lemaire also coached the new expansion Minnesota Wild from 2000-01 through the end of the 2008-09 season when Lemaire and the team agreed to part ways. During that time the Wild missed the playoffs five times, lost in the first round twice, and made the conference finals once.

Lamoriello brought Lemaire back to New Jersey for 2008-09 after which he retired from coaching. He briefly came out of retirement in the second half of the 2009-10 season when Lamoriello fired the Devil's new head coach John MacLean. He has not coached in the NHL since that time.

Lemaire has a strong connection with The Leafs' new General Manager, Lou Lamoriello, who was the of course the Devils' GM during all of his coaching time with that team, but he also has a connection to Mike Babcock. Lemaire was Babcock's assistant coach for the 2010 Canadian Olympic hockey team.

So what will he do in Toronto, and just what is a "special assignment coach"?

Lemaire is stepping into a situation where an almost totally new front office and coaching staff  will be running the team. Mike Babcock, Sheldon Keefe, all the assistants, and even Anthony Noreen can benefit from his experience and knowledge of other teams' systems.

This doesn't mean the Leafs or Marlies will start 1990's style trapping this season, but hopefully a team known for poor defensive play will have a coach with insight on improving their systems.