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NEWS

Lemaire says kids are ready to play

Thursday, 10.01.2009 / 3:51 PM / News
By Eric Marin
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Lemaire says kids are ready to play
Lemaire felt Shanahan had performed well at camp, but saw opportunity for rookies.
Jacques Lemaire believed Brendan Shanahan had just played his best game of the preseason, which is what made the mutual decision more difficult. It was announced on Thursday that Shanahan, a future Hall of Famer and three-time Stanley Cup champion, would not be a Devil in 2009-10.

It was less a case of Shanahan underperforming than it was the club's prospects distinguishing themselves at this year's training camp. Shanahan notched his first goal of the exhibition schedule in Tuesday's finale, a 4-2 win over the Islanders.

"When we sat down at the start of the season, I told him that I'm going to give him the chance to play, to prove himself, and that I'd like him to be on one of the top three lines," Lemaire said. "It's not that he doesn't do the job; it's not that he can't play. He's getting in better and better shape, and his last game was the best one that he had played. You could see that there was improvement."

Lemaire, who returned to New Jersey this past offseason after nine campaigns in Minnesota, got to camp and saw capable, young talent in the system. Now's the time, he said, to give the rookies a shot.

"The problem is the kids," he said. "At the start of the season, these kids, I didn't know them, myself. I didn't know, well, maybe Lou (knew), that they had a chance to make the team. But these kids, they've shown that they're ready to play."

Among the "kids" are Niclas Bergfors and Matt Halischuk. Lemaire said Thursday that they had, at times, played as well as the Devils' top line of Zach Parise, Travis Zajac and Jamie Langenbrunner. Bergfors led all Devils with five points (1g-4a) in exhibition.

That youth injection plus the acquisition of Rob Niedermayer to fill in for an injured Patrik Elias meant Shanahan would've seen a smaller role outside of the team's top nine forwards. Lemaire couldn't fathom that for a player with 656 career goals (11th all-time).

"I didn't want Shanny to come in and be a fourth-line kind of player. I didn't want that," Lemaire said. "It's just how I looked at things. A veteran like him that had that type of career that he had, you don't want to play him on a line where it would be tough to produce for him. It's still his game to produce points. To do it, he has to play on the top lines, and now on the top lines, we have players that are ahead of him."

Lemaire felt fortunate not to be sitting in the general manager's chair this week.

"I sat with Lou and him when Lou talked to him," Lemaire said. "After that I told Lou, 'I can't do it.' If I knew it would've been like that, I don't know that I would've attended. Because it's hard. I've seen a few in my career, and good people, it's hard to come to this type of situation. Because they're good people and they were top players in the league at the time. It makes it a lot harder. I said, 'I'm glad you're the GM, you have to make the decisions, the final one.'"

Lemaire could see the move had been tough on Lamoriello, as well.

"It's even worse for Lou because he drafted him (second overall in 1987)," he said. "At 18 years old, he played for him. It was hard, I could tell. It was not easy."

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EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 TBL 50 31 15 4 163 132 66
2 MTL 47 31 13 3 127 108 65
3 NYI 48 32 15 1 157 135 65
4 DET 49 28 12 9 145 128 65
5 PIT 48 27 13 8 143 124 62
6 WSH 48 25 14 9 144 124 59
7 BOS 49 26 16 7 131 123 59
8 NYR 46 27 15 4 135 111 58
9 FLA 46 21 15 10 114 129 52
10 PHI 50 21 22 7 139 151 49
11 TOR 50 22 24 4 144 155 48
12 OTT 47 19 19 9 129 134 47
13 CBJ 47 21 23 3 119 148 45
14 NJD 48 18 22 8 109 135 44
15 CAR 47 17 25 5 102 122 39
16 BUF 49 14 32 3 92 174 31

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
A. Henrique 41 10 16 -2 26
J. Jagr 44 9 16 -11 25
M. Cammalleri 36 15 6 -3 21
P. Elias 38 6 15 -13 21
M. Zidlicky 48 4 16 -8 20
M. Ryder 42 6 12 -2 18
T. Zajac 40 8 8 -6 16
S. Gomez 24 4 12 -6 16
S. Bernier 33 6 7 1 13
M. Havlat 30 5 8 -9 13
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
C. Schneider 17 19 4 .921 2.37
K. Kinkaid 1 3 3 .913 2.54