Mario Tremblay

Lemaire to coach Devils

Monday, July 13th, 2009

It’s official. Mario Tremblay comes with him. I can tell you the happiest guy in Jersey today (actually Traverse City, Mich.) is Brian Rolston.

Add: Got in contact with Rolston via text, who will be coached by Lemaire for a third time: “I am extremely happy that Jacques will be coaching me once again. I truly believe he is one of the best hockey coaches in the game.”

Onto Lemaire:

“I never did close the door on coaching. I said my time in Minnesota is over.”

“I had a great time in New Jersey in the 90s. I had some great memories and I hope to get some more.”

Not easy writing all this on blackberry. My laptop’s in the shop. Also, I don’t speak French.

“I never thought I’d be back. The five years I thought I’d cherish the rest of my life. But the situation right now is perfect for me.”

On Parise’s growth and under more restricted system, will he be hindered? “I don’t know what would be put in that’ll stop any player to perform at their best. He’s a kid that works offensively and defensively. … I’m not the coach that will stop any guys to perform and do what they’re good at.”

On Rolston: “He’s a guy that has to be put in the right situation. I’m not saying Brent didn’t do this, but he’s a guy we have to demand a little more. That’s my intention. That’s what we did in Minny and we’ll try to repeat that.”

Lou approached him before the draft.

“It would be a great thing to have a chance to win the Cup. I want to be part of this. If there’s a chance, I’d love to get another one.”

On Tremblay: “He’ll be in charge of the defense. I’ve been nine years with him and I think he’s a great complement of myself. He’s fun for the players. He knows how to deal with them in practices.”

Here is the original blog post June 9 predicting Lemaire would be the guy.

“Chucky” holds conference call with print media; Highlights: He’s spoken to Gaborik, he plans to spend next week on coaching search, is working toward a Draft Day trade

Friday, June 5th, 2009

Busy Chuck Fletcher has been swamped with many things on his plate, so in the past week, he hasn’t had a chance to talk with the beat writers.

Fletcher held a conference call with the two newspapers and Associated Press this afternoon, and he discussed the coaching search, Gaborik and pro scouting meetings.


He spoke with Gaborik, although it was mostly just to introduce himself. Asked if he got an idea as to whether Gaborik is willing to consider staying rather than just automatically going to free agency July 1, Fletcher said, “I can tell you the conversation was not as much about the future as just introducing myself and having a general conversation. I’ll talk more in depth with [agent] Ron Salcer as I continue discussions with him.”

On whether he’s talked to Salcer about a contract, he said, “It’s starting to get to that point in time where I’ll probably respectfully decline to comment on the specifics of negotiations.”

That made it sound like there have been negotiations, but in a subsequent email I sent to Chuck, he said there have been no negotiations and that he meant that any future talks as far as a contract would be with Salcer rather than Gaborik.

– On the coaching search: He said he’s still closer to the beginning of the process rather than the end. “I’m trying to narrow it down to a smaller list of candidates. I’ve spoken with some candidates. There are still some candidates I intend to speak with in a little more detail. Next week, I’ll start to make some progress.”

He said it won’t be an exhaustive search of everybody because he has a good idea of his finalists. He said that’s because in Pittsburgh when he and Ray Shero fired Michel Therrien this past season, he and Shero reviewed and assessed different candidates and spoke to a lot of different people about candidates.

“I don’t think it’ll take lot of time once I can devote all my time and attention to the matter. Next week I’ll jump into it more aggressively.”

He said his timetable is still by the Draft, and he’s confident it’ll happen. And quite frankly, Fletcher leaves for the June 26-27 Draft on June 22, so my guess is a coach will be named by June 19 the latest.

The candidates still appear to be Todd Richards, Craig MacTavish, Peter Laviolette, I hear both Detroit assistants Paul MacLean and Brad McCrimmon and Kevin Constantine. There could be others. But these are the names I’m hearing mostly from myriad leaguewide sources.

– Fletcher made it extremely clear he’ll be looking to swing a trade at the Draft. He comes from a long list of teams that have made big trades at the Draft — Roberto Luongo and Olli Jokinen for Mark Parrish and Oleg Kvasha the biggest. He said he and his staff are compiling free agent and trade priority lists, and that’ll continue to be refined.

But because free agency is such a crapshoot, he’d like to try to fill some holes “in advance” of free agency, which means the Draft.

I keep hearing Josh Harding is the big piece they’ll be floating. I also confirmed again the Wild offered Benoit Pouliot around to everybody last summer, so you can bet that won’t change. I also hear Derek Boogaard — one year from unrestricted free agency — will be at least shopped.

– Lastly, he thanked Mario Tremblay and said he asked Mario if he wanted to be considered for an assistant coaching position and Mario thought it was best to move on, which is what Mario told me. He said once a new coach is in place, the first order of business would be to sit down with Mike Ramsey, Matt Shaw and Bob Mason to see if there’s a fit.

Tremblay over and out; MacTavish speaks — kinda, sorta

Thursday, June 4th, 2009

I spoke with Wild assistant coach Mario Tremblay this afternoon, or actually former Wild assistant coach Mario Tremblay. As expected, Tremblay said he’s moving on and will be leaving Minnesota.

Tremblay said he was informed by Wild GM Chuck Fletcher he didn’t make the short list of candidates to be head coach. He was disappointed but completely understood Fletcher’s decision. He said he’ll move on and look for another job. Rumors in Montreal are that he’ll join Jacques Martin’s staff as an assistant. Tremblay said he hopes that is the case, but he said he’s spoken to nobody with the Canadiens.

He said he had a wonderful nine years in Minnesota and wanted me to make sure to thank the fans. On a personal note, just a great dude to deal with for my purposes. He was a walking cartoon character.

He said he hopes Mike Ramsey’s not in the same boat. Ramsey is also in the last year of his contract, and he said he very much hopes the new coach retains Ramsey and that he deserves to stay. If Ramsey is not retained, I know for a fact Tampa Bay wants him as an assistant. But with young kids and roots here, I’m not sure Ramsey’s going to chase jobs or be willing to uproot his family from Minnetonka.

Bob Mason and Matt Shaw have one year left on their deals, Tremblay said, and like I’ve been writing on here, I think they have a tremendous chance of staying.

Mason has done an extraordinary job as the Wild’s goalie coach, and most smart new head coaches don’t mess with a goalie’s goalie coach without talking to that goalie, in this case Nik Backstrom. You should have heard the other end of the call in the summer of 2004 when I called Roberto Luongo during his honeymoon in Hawaii to get reaction about Clint Malarchuk being fired. Luongo’s response, “What the $^#%% did you just say?”

Oh, that Jacques Martin.

And trust me, from somebody that sees the behind the scenes of the Wild, Shaw made this coaching staff tick. He does all the legwork and video work and lots of the gameplanning. He’s a bright, young guy.

Also, I spoke with Edmonton Journal hockey writer Jim Matheson today. Craig MacTavish hadn’t spoken publicly since he was let go, but Jim got MacT on the horn today. He wouldn’t comment on my report saying that he has been interviewed by the Wild, but he said he wants to coach again and won’t sit out forever.

Of the candidates I’ve reported, MacTavish knows the Wild better than any of them just because he’s coached against them six to eight times a year since 2000. Of course, since I began covering the team, the Wild had his number, too. MacTavish is considered a pretty defensive coach — not Jacques Lemaire defensive — but defensive. But he likes aggressive, up-tempo play, too.

I’m sure MacTavish had an impressive interview. If you know him, he’s a very engaging, personable, well-spoken guy, so I’m sure he charmed them.

OK, that is it for now.

Fletcher, Russo back in town; Richards still the frontrunner

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2009

Yes, I’m back. Yippee do!

I figured I better blog because the smart aleck son of a friend of mine sent me a text message saying, “Think you’ll blog again this year?”

Like father, like son :)

Back from Hawaii, and Ireland, and I’m ready to go back to each. Two awesome places.

The Brown Fox — Chuck Fletcher — is back in the office after landing this afternoon from Pittsburgh, where he attended Game 3 of the Finals and attended his first official GM’s Meeting — well, as a non-Interim, non-assistant GM — in history. Had to be cool.

What’s Fletcher been up to? Well, while I was in Ireland, he attended the Draft combine in Toronto last weekend, where he interviewed players and dined with the staff, including Tommy Thompson. On Thursday and Friday, he’ll conduct his first pro scouting meetings with Tom Lynn, Blair Mackasey, Jamie Hislop and Todd Woodcroft, among others.

They’ll be talking free agency, trades and likely whether the Wild should tender any offers to their own unrestricted free agents (i.e. Skoula, Veilleux, Bergeron or Foster). We know they’ll go after Gaborik, although it’ll be difficult at this late juncture.


Fletcher has also been working on the coaching search. Same candidates as I’ve mentioned before. Todd Richards is still the frontrunner. I know for a fact Chuck went out to California to interview Richards, and that’s the place he wouldn’t tell me he was calling me back from (remember?).

But I still think he’d want to interview Detroit assistant coach Paul MacLean, who’s a bit busy right now.

If Richards gets the job, possible assistants include Claude Noel, Curt Fraser, Tony Granato and Mike Ramsey. Like I’ve said, I think Matt Shaw and Bob Mason have tremendous shots at being retained.

Lots of news going around the league. Jacques Martin is now the coach in Montreal, leaving Florida at a marvelous time with less than a month before the Draft and free agency.

All sorts of rumors out of Montreal that Mario Tremblay could eventually join Martin on that bench.

Florida will now conduct a full-on GM search, but owner Alan Cohen appears close to selling the team because I’m told that GM candidates are being referred to Alternate Gov. Bill Torrey and Tony Tavares, the former Anaheim Mighty Ducks head who just so happens to be leading the ownership group close to buying the Cats.

Some possible candidates in Fla.? Former Panthers coach Doug MacLean, former Panthers GM Rick Dudley, former Panthers captain Scott Mellanby, Hall of Famer and former Panthers analyst Denis Potvin, former Bruins assistant GM Jeff Gorton, TSN and NBC analyst Pierre McGuire and former Lightning GM Jay Feaster. Maybe former Wild GM Doug Risebrough would be interested, although he’s still on a two-week solo canoe trip, so he may not even know the job’s available :)

Lastly, aren’t you glad you’re a Wild fan? Imagine being in Colorado. Sorry, but at least Wild owner Craig Leipold conducts a far and wide GM search to get the best possible candidate and then announces him with a little fanfare.

The Avs do what they always do — hire internally.

Greg Sherman — the assistant GM — was hired today to replace Francois Giguere accompanied by the most underwhelming press release announcement ever. From Pierre Lacroix: “Greg Sherman deserves the opportunity to prove he can be an effective general manager in our business.”

I bet Avs fans everywhere are excited after that line.

It was also classy of Lacroix to finally fire Tony Granato after offering his job around the league for a month, including to former Avs star goalie Patrick Roy. Kudos to Denver Post writer Adrian Dater, who’s been all over that story for some time.

Speaking of Dater, he talked to Marc Crawford, who’d be interested in returning there as coach. Dater reports that Joe Sacco’s got an inside shot. Wonder if Jacques Lemaire would be interested, eh?

OK, I’m back on the clock folks. Blogs will be updated more regularly.

Sources: Risebrough fired; Leipold conference call tidbits; Backstrom may need hip surgery, other Wild medical news

Thursday, April 16th, 2009


According to two outside NHL sources, Wild GM Doug Risebrough has been fired by owner Craig Leipold. It is unconfirmed inside the organization.

Leipold was said to have agonized over the decision but decided, in the final analysis, that a change in direction was called for.

Here’s the memo from the team:

Minnesota Wild Owner, Craig Leipold, announced today that the organization will not renew the contract of President and General Manager, Doug Risebrough, beyond the 2008-2009 season.

“The entire Minnesota Wild organization is forever indebted to Doug for his substantial efforts in establishing this franchise’s solid foundation and winning tradition,” said Leipold. “The positive impact of Doug’s service will be felt for many years to come. We wish Doug the very best.”

The search for a new General Manager will begin immediately. The first order of business for the incoming General Manager will be to select the Team’s next Head Coach.

Until a replacement is found, Assistant General Manager Tom Lynn, will be acting-General Manager.

I will be on early this evening to blog more, but right now, I’m working the story.

I’ve talked to several people today, including a number of people interested in the job. I’ll throw stuff on later, and obviously in tomorrow’s coverage.

Here’s Jacques Lemaire, whom I reached in Montreal. He’s coming back to Minnesota tomorrow.

“I got a call from [assistant coach Mario Tremblay] and he told me this and I said, ‘Are you kidding me?’ It was shocking, it was shocking. I never expected it. I never thought he’d be fired after I left,” former Wild coach Jacques Lemaire said. “We tried to get this team better. What Craig thought was something different.
“Us, I thought we did some decent things there. We don’t know anymore what to think there. It just shows you the owner has a different perspective than a lot of people could go.”

Lemaire was unable to get in contact with Risebrough.

Lemaire, by the way, does not want the job.

From the Leipold conference call:

– He made his decision a month ago.

– He told Risebrough Tuesday, and he took it professionally.

– The new GM will only be GM, and not GM and President

– On whether Lemaire would have been fired if he didn’t quit, Leipold said he hasn’t thought about that because he always assumed Lemaire was leaving.

– He has a little of former GM’s and bright stars he’s interested in. Candidates have solicited him already today via call and email.

There will be lots of speculation that Leipold will want to hire his former GM in Nashville David Poile, who’s on a year-to-year contract. I know from a source the two spoke yesterday. However, the Tennessean reported last July that in the sales papers, Leipold is prohibited from ever hiring Poile for a job with another NHL franchise.

In other news:

Like Marian Gaborik before, it appears goalie Niklas Backstrom’s groin pain was stemming from a hip problem.
Hesitant to speak because he had yet to talk with Wild acting GM Tom Lynn, Backstrom said Thursday he may need surgery.
“I saw a doctor today, and the team doctors, and we have to decide now in a couple days if I need surgery,” Backstrom said. “I need to get other opinions, and also from back home in Finland. It’s tough for me because everything’s in English, so I need someone to translate to me so I know exactly what’s going on.”
Backstrom said he hoped to talk to Gaborik so he can see his hip specialist, Vail’s Marc Philippon. He said the recovery from an operation “is speculated, but in my mind, I’ll be ready by the start of the season.”

Left  wing Andrew Brunette had successful reconstructive surgery on his right knee Thursday and he will begin rehab immediately.
Left wing Derek Boogaard will have surgery on his right shoulder Tuesday and will be ready in time for the start of next season.