DETROIT -- Jacques Lemaire admits that old fire to be a coach still burns within -- even brighter now that he's got the New Jersey Devils back on the winning track.
Still, Lemaire, 65, says there's no chance he will be back next season. The plan when he returned to coach the team after John MacLean was fired Dec. 23 was that he would finish out the season, and he's sticking with that.
"Because I find it's tough," Lemaire said before the Devils played their final game before the All-Star break Wednesday night in Detroit. "It's hard. I'm not at the end of the season yet. I still have two, three months to go and will have tough days. I get back from road trips and I get more tired than when I was 40."
It was for that reason Lemaire decided to retire from coaching at the end of last season.
Although Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello said he was not expecting it, Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said Wednesday that he wasn't surprised when Lemaire's decision was announced four days after the team's first-round playoff loss to Philadelphia. That's because Lemaire told him during the Olympics last February -- Lemaire served as one of Babcock's assistants on Canada's gold-medal-winning team -- that he intended to retire.
"He told me he was," Babcock said. "I wasn't surprised one bit. I think you get to a point in your life when (you think), do you want to do this every day, or do you want to play golf four times a week and chase your grandkids around? You know what I mean. He's done some things in his life, but Lou's been good to him, so he's being good to Lou."
Lemaire confirmed that he confided in Babcock.
"I talked to him at the Olympics that it would probably be my last year because of the way I felt -- getting more tired," Lemaire said. "It's just tougher. I said you feel there's a time and I think it's coming."
Lemaire says he feels "great" at the moment.
"You get back in and it's a game that I played and I coached for 15 years, 16 years, and one day you decide to retire ... it doesn't matter the reason; the fire that you had inside you stays there," he said. "You've just got the pilot and you turn up the valve, and then you get that fire. That's what happened."
Lemaire had the Devils playing their best hockey of the season entering Wednesday's game. They had won four straight and were 6-0-1 in the second half following a first half in which they went 10-29-2.
Although they still are in last place overall, Babcock didn't view them as a last-place team.
"I think they're in the sweepstakes (for the top) draft pick, but now my friend Jacques is there and they've got things rolling," Babcock said. "They're 6-0-1 in their last seven and they're feeling good about themselves. It's amazing when you're organized, when you come back in your own zone, suddenly you break out ... and you all feel better and suddenly good players become good players again."
Lemaire said his goal is to set a foundation for the team to build on in the future after he's back in retirement.
"This is what I always try to build up, every team I coach," Lemaire said. "I want the guys to know what they have to do to win and that's the foundation of the team, knowing what you have to do to win and trying to go (into) every practice and work hard so you can get better."