Lemaire won't return behind Devils' bench

Devils head coach Jacques Lemaire yells instructions to his team from the bench in Newark, New...

Devils head coach Jacques Lemaire yells instructions to his team from the bench in Newark, New Jersey on April 6, 2011. (RAY STUBBLEBINE/Reuters)

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, Last Updated: 9:42 PM ET

NEWARK - Jacques Lemaire's third tenure in New Jersey came to a close with the Devils' season-ending 3-2 victory over Boston on Sunday.

"I'm going back to where I was before," Lemaire said in a post-game press conference. "I want to enjoy my family. I still do think that I made the right decision last year, but I am really happy I took the job for the rest of the season. I had fun."

Under Lemaire's guidance, New Jersey put together a phenomenal second half of the season to counteract one of the worst first-half runs in franchise history, finishing 38-39-5 after a 10-29-2 start.

"It demands a lot and I want to enjoy life," Lemaire added. "I want to enjoy the family. I still do think that I made the right decision last year, but I'm really happy I took the job for the rest of the season. I had fun. At times, it was a huge challenge for me. I thought the guys responded well. Like I mentioned this morning, the only regret that I have is not making the playoffs."

Despite the second-half charge, the Devils will miss out on the postseason for the first time since 1996 -- the season after winning a Stanley Cup during the lockout-shortened 1995 campaign.

Lemaire originally spent five seasons as Devils head coach from 1993-94 through the 1997-98 season, guiding the club to its first Stanley Cup title in a shocking four-game sweep over Detroit during his second year at the helm.

He then returned to the franchise in July of 2009 after eight seasons as the coach of the Minnesota Wild, and finished first in the Atlantic Division at 48-27-7 before deciding to step down once more after the Devils were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by the Flyers.

After rookie bench boss John MacLean struggled to a 9-22-2 mark, Lemaire was called upon to lead once more just prior to Christmas. He led the club to a 23-3-2 run from January 9 to March 15 to move within six points of eighth place in the East before falling out of playoff contention last week.

Lemaire is the franchise's all-time leader in games coached with 509 and victories with 276. His 35 postseason wins are also the most in club annals.

The 65-year-old Hall of Famer also coached the Montreal Canadiens for part of two seasons from 1983-85. He departs with an overall coaching record of 617-458-184 and is a two-time winner of the Jack Adams Award as the NHL's top coach.

Lemaire was an eight-time Stanley Cup winner during his playing days with the Canadiens from 1967-79. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1984, having recorded 366 goals and 469 assists for 835 points in 853 regular- season games.


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