The New Jersey Devils have fired head coach John MacLean and replaced him on an interim basis with Jacques Lemaire.,
This will be the third time Lemaire has been head coach of the team. He retired last April after the Devils were eliminated in first round of the playoffs and had since been working with the club as a special assignment coach.
The Devils have struggled this season and are currently an NHL-worst 9-22-2. In their last ten games, they are 2-8. They have also been outscored 15-3 in their last three games alone, all of which have been losses.
"It's a decision that certainly is not one that's pleasant or we feel good about," Devils president and general manager Lou Lamoriello said. "But it's a decision that, in my opinion, had to be made.
"I take responsibility for waiting and trying to get it to where it should have been. Under no set of circumstances should all of this responsibility be placed on (MacLean). The responsibility lies on the players and myself for what couldn't be done. Unfortunately, we just weren't getting it done."
The 65-year-old Lemaire coached 16 seasons in the NHL with the Montreal Canadiens, the Devils and the Minnesota Wild, posting a 588-441 record. His teams also played to 124 ties and lost 60 games in overtime or shootouts.
Lemaire won the Jack Adams Award as the league's top coach in 1994 and 2003, and he was an assistant on Canada's gold medal-winning team at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.
Lemaire, who is in the Hockey Hall of Fame as a player, coached the Devils to the Stanley Cup in 1995.
"Jacques has the winning resume with him and he knows what has to be done to turn this around," Goaltender Martin Brodeur said. "This has to be a wake-up call for all of us. Jacques is able to get the best out of guys. He's a familiar face, so the adjustment won't be that bad. It will take us a lot less time to get accustomed to him. I'm sure that's what Lou is looking for, someone who can turn this around quickly."
MacLean had come under fire from some hockey pundits earlier in the season when star player Ilya Kovalchuk was made a healthy scratch for a game against the Buffalo Sabres. The reason for Kovalchuk's benching was never disclosed by the team, but the removal of a player with a 15-year, $100 million contract put the team under scrutiny from its fans and hockey observers.
MacLean played for New Jersey from 1983-1997 and is still among the franchise leaders in most offensive categories. He scored 40 or more goals three times for the team, and was part of the club's first Stanley Cup title in 1994-95.