Lemaire decides to return as Wild's coach for eighth season

Updated: May 10, 2008, 1:21 PM ET
Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS -- Minnesota Wild coach Jacques Lemaire said he will return for an eighth season with the team.

Lemaire, who announced his decision in a news release Saturday, has a career record of 500-381-168 in 14 years, including 60-52 in the playoffs.

But with the Wild, he's gone just 11-18 in the postseason. The Wild were ousted in the first round last month by the Colorado Avalanche, culminating what Lemaire called his toughest season as a coach.

"I'm getting older and maybe not as patient as I was when I started to coach," he said in an interview after the Wild were eliminated.

That led to some speculation that the 62-year-old would step down after leading the franchise from expansion team in 2000 to Northwest Division champion this season. But after meeting with general manager Doug Risebrough in Florida this week, Lemaire said he was convinced he wanted to continue.

"When you are younger, it's a lot easier to make a decision," Lemaire said in a statement issued by the team on Saturday. "At the end of the year, I said I wanted to ask questions of Doug.

"I wanted to make sure my boss is happy with the work I am doing and with the way I manage the team. This is what we talked about in our meetings. I am reassured of my work and I want to coach again. My satisfaction behind the bench is getting the team to play the best it can, individually and as a group. Success will come with that."

Widely considered one of the best coaches in the league, Lemaire's status was the first of several big questions the Wild needed to answer this offseason.

Star winger Marian Gaborik is entering the final year of his contract and will likely be looking for a significant raise after scoring a franchise-record 42 goals last season. So Risebrough has to decide this summer whether to sign him to a big-money, long-term deal or trade him.

The team also has 10 unrestricted free agents, including veteran leader Brian Rolston and Pavol Demitra, one of Gaborik's best friends.

With all of that uncertainty hanging over the team, Lemaire's decision to return and provide some continuity and stability is a big one for the Wild. He is the only coach this franchise has employed and is a beloved figure in this hockey-crazed state.

Now he will get to work to try to figure out how to get his team to make the next step.

"I always look at the whole season," Lemaire said a few days after the Avalanche ousted the Wild. "I'm trying to correct. I'm trying to get parts better than it was. How are we going to get that better? How can we play better in the playoffs? How can we score more goals in the playoffs?"


Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press