Last Saturday, Jacques Lemaire would attend the meeting between the New York Islanders and Lightning, at the Amalie Arena in Tampa.
Rooted in Florida’s Gulf of Mexico region, loyal consultant to General Manager Lou Lamoriello, whose official title is Instructor on Special Assignment, enjoys the position he held for four years with the islanders.
Of course, the former Montreal Canadiens flag-bearer, an eight-time Stanley Cup winner as a player, wouldn’t want to be in the socks of his boss, who celebrated his 80th birthday on Friday.
Photo credit: AFP
“I wouldn’t see myself in the position today. Even if he hadn’t seen me doing it in time either!” laughed Guy Lafleur’s former centre-back. It is a difficult job. You have to lead everyone and there are always problems. Always someone with a problem somewhere.
“When there is something that is not working well, that you would like it to work, you have to make changes. It’s a full-time job.”
Former Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin used to say during his reign that the most thankless part of the job is telling a player he was traded. After all, players and organization members forge close ties over the course of a year. A family at home as well as abroad.
“That is what is also difficult, believes Lemaire. Young people are part of the family in a sense. You approach them. So for some reason you have to make a decision for the team, and then changing someone becomes difficult. Lou has always gotten along with it.
“He’s not going to change just to change. Especially his players. When he sees one working and one guy is working hard every day and he’s determined and he has a good head, those guys are rarely traded.
Romanov, freshly shaven
In February 2021, Alexander Romanov had barely a month of experience in the NHL, with the Montreal Canadiens, when Lemaire told the author of these lines that he saw in the Russian defender the same arrogance that Chris Chelios wasted in his debut with the CH.
Seventeen months later, the Islanders acquired the tough guard in the Montreal amateur draft. Coincidence? Lemaire can’t help but laugh.
“Lou is informed, as are all the coaches in the league. It is obvious that he loved her very much. He is the type of player that completes our group. That’s why he did the trade and that’s a big reason.”
Photo credit: AFP
According to Lemaire, Lamoriello grabbed the individual first. More and more decision makers are looking at an athlete’s psychological profile before pulling the trigger on an exchange.
Lou likes nice people. Whenever he looks at someone, it is obvious that he is looking at the character and the lifestyle that he leads. There’s always room for improvement when you’re dealing with problems because a guy doesn’t have a strong head. It’s hard to deal with weaknesses (off the ice) other than hockey.
“It’s too much. That’s why it’s important and more and more managers are moving in this direction. They want good people who play hockey with their hearts in the right place. Then the hockey side is easier to manage.
A Lamoriello trademark, shortly after arriving in North America as part of the Islanders, Romanov received a makeover: a haircut and beard shaved to the skin.
The Steinbrenner brothers, owners of the New York Yankees, had an identical reputation in Major League Baseball. Montgomery Burns too, in The Simpsonswhen he ordered Don Mattingly to shave his sideburns until he was kicked out of his all-star club (excuse the analogy).
“With Lou, anytime someone walks in with long hair or a beard, they cut it off! It’s her style. She’s always believed in that, in the dress and the way the guy takes care of himself. She wants everyone to feel Proud to play for the team.”
Romanov is obviously very proud of Long Island. He plays in the first defensive pairing with Noah Dobson and posted an average ice time of 20 min 40 sec per game through Sunday.
He ranks first on his team in blocks (22) and second in his position in shooting (13).
Expectations on Long Island
As for the rest of the squad, the players know they have to live up to the expectations placed on them.
We must quickly forget last year’s result, when the “Islands” finished the season with a 37-35-10 record and a playoff exclusion that cost veteran manager Barry Trotz his job.
“We have confidence in the team, assures Lemaire. Lou kept most of the players and didn’t make many additions. The youngsters are progressing very well and the veterans continue to put their shoulders on the wheel. They want to be successful.
“A lot happened last year and it was a difficult season for us. We believe that this year the team will be competitive again like it was two or three years ago.
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