Three Candidates For The Next Retired Canadiens Number

UNIONDALE, NY - CIRCA 1978: Steve Shutt #22 of the Montreal Canadiens skates against the New York Islanders during an NHL Hockey game circa 1978 at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale, New York. Shutt's playing career went from 1972-85. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)
UNIONDALE, NY - CIRCA 1978: Steve Shutt #22 of the Montreal Canadiens skates against the New York Islanders during an NHL Hockey game circa 1978 at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale, New York. Shutt's playing career went from 1972-85. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images) /
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The Career Of Jacques Lemaire: The Underrated Legend
The Career Of Jacques Lemaire: The Underrated Legend /

Jacques Lemaire #25

Drafted: Signed As An Undrafted Free Agent In 1967

NHL Totals: 930 GP 424 Goals 393 Assists 817 Points

Hall Of Fame: 1984

Some Other Notable Players To Have Worn #25: Petr Svoboda, Vincent Damphousse, Ryan Poehling

Had the Selke trophy exist prior to its inaugural season in 1977-78, Jacques Lemaire might have won five or six of them.

The slick centerman got used to winning almost on a yearly basis, having won eight Stanley Cups during his 12 year career, all with the Canadiens. Believe it or not, he sits tied in 5th place for most Cups won by a player, trailing a pack of former Canadiens in Claude Provost (9), Yvan Cournoyer (10), Jean Beliveau (10) and Henri Richard (11).

He would also score two Stanley Cup winning goals.

Ironically, it’s an injury to Henri Richard that would put Lemaire down the middle in his rookie season, as he was a winger for the entirety of his playing career. That year he would finish second in the Calder Trophy race behind Derek Sanderson of the Boston Bruins.

Much like Shutt, arguments of him playing with Guy Lafleur are used to deny him of a jersey retirement. However, the 1984 Hall of Famer was one of the reasons the Canadiens dominated the 70’s along with Shutt and Lafleur as his wingers, playing one of the most trailblazing two-way game hockey has ever seen.

Lemaire gave Lafleur that extra space and wings. Their sportsmanship as well as their skills complemented each other perfectly, while Steve Shutt closed things off to complete the deadly trio.

However, under Scotty Bowman, Lemaire would spend the bulk of the early 70’s on a line between Pete Mahovlich and Yvan Cournoyer. It was then that he was started to be used heavily on the penalty kill and recognized as one of the game’s best players without the puck. When he was ultimately penciled in with Shutt and Lafleur, fans of a certain generation were reminiscent of the Punch Line of Elmer Lach, Toe Blake and Maurice “Rocket” Richard.

Lemaire flew under the radar a bit due to his consistency. In his 12 years in the NHL he scored at least 20 goals in each season and only dropped under 50 points once, and that was during his rookie season when he tallied 42 points.

At the end of the 1978-79, Lemaire, then 33, was offered a 5 year $1.25 million contract. Surprisingly, he rejected the offer and went off to sign a 3 year contract with HC Sierre of the Swiss League, making him a player, coach and General Manager. The contract also guaranteed him $75,000 annually tax free. Lemaire was quoted saying of the move  “I always wanted to do something reckless, have an adventure, see how other people live, discover something new. Well, that time is now. I’ve always been interested in coaching, and when this opportunity presented itself, it seemed like the perfect thing,” 

Lemaire would end up playing two seasons where he tallied 42 goals and 29 assists for 71 points in 40 games.

The Lasalle, QC native would return to the NHL during the 1983-84 season where he was assistant coach to Bob Berry. He would then replace Berry as Head Coach with 17 games to the season. Following the 1984-85 season, Lemaire would leave coaching and become the Canadiens’ assistant general manager, a position he held until 1993. Following the team’s Cup victory, Lemaire was hired as the head coach of the New Jersey Devils where he would lift the Stanley Cup for the 11th time in total in 1996.

Lemaire is currently a part-time Special Assignment Coach for the New York Islanders since 2018. He had previous held the same position with the Toronto Maple Leafs since 2015 under Lou Lamoriello only to eventually follow him to Long Island.

Jacques Lemaire is listed as one of the NHL’s 100 Greatest Players Of All Time.