After Lemaire, expect a quiet Wild season

Connor Gerdes

After building the Minnesota Wild from the ground up, head coach Jacques Lemaire has stepped down from his post after the Wild missed the playoffs by three points this season, but not before leaving his signature––his defensive system had the Wild allow only 200 goals, the league best.

Filling his shoes will be impossible this off-season for general manager Doug Risbrough, as Lemaire is a man with credentials unrivaled––winning eight Stanley Cups as a player, another as a coach, having logged over 1100 games in his career behind the bench, and being the guy with a reputation of bringing out the best in his players.

Also on Risbrough’s plate are the Wild’s six unrestricted free agents, including injury-prone-star Marion Gaborik. Signs point to a Gaborik-free season coming, but what’s the Wild without Lemaire or Gaborik? We haven’t seen anything else, and fans need to ask themselves if they want to.

Risbrough has a mountain to climb this off-season, and if he expects to keep his job, he better start ascending. Signing a head coach is the first step, but the post-lockout lifespan of a coach is comparative to a flea––fans shouldn’t expect someone they can rally behind immediately.

Risbrough failed to produce this season, most notably the lack of any attempt to sign or shuffle players before the trade deadline. While he has committed to searching for the best coach possible, maybe Risbrough should look within the organization at assistant coach Mario Tremblay.

After Lemaire’s final press conference, he gave Tremblay quite the endorsement, and as Tremblay has been around since the beginning too, he knows the ins and out of Lemaire’s winning system.
Others saw Lemaire’s system as a hindrance to the game.

The neutral zone trap he pioneered changed the face of hockey quite a bit, it’s one of the few systems in the league that truly stresses defense.
While not very exciting when executed properly, there’s no denying its efficiency, especially when working with a weak roster.

The Wild that Minnesota fans have come to love is rapidly changing.
Unless Risbrough manages a miracle, expect a season under the .500 mark, the first since their opening two.