Former Wild coach Jacques Lemaire, who stepped down last week, left here for his Florida home on Wednesday not ruling out the possibility that he will coach again somewhere else next season.
Asked about that possibility, Lemaire answered, "It could be, but it's slim."
Then he added that the only way he would consider coaching would be if somebody offered him the right job with the right general manager.
But Lemaire made it clear that he wants to stay in hockey, adding: "Maybe consulting, do some work with the minor leagues, do something with the draft and, all the kids that are drafted, maybe do some talking with the coach and even the general manager."
As for the firing of General Manager Doug Risebrough, his former teammate with the Montreal Canadiens, Lemaire said: "I was really stunned when I heard that news. It was something unexpected and it was a huge surprise. I felt that Doug did a decent job and I guess the owner felt otherwise, that he feels like, hey, it was the right time to make a bigger move here and start over."
As for the future of the team, Lemaire believes the signing of Marian Gaborik is very important.
"Well Gaby, we saw him in the [run for the] playoffs, what, he scored 10 goals in 10 games, something like that, 11 games," Lemaire said, of Gaborik's return after missing 65 games because of injury. "He is a scorer. He is a guy that can change a game. He's got great speed, he's got a touch for scoring goals, he is a great asset, but he has got to be a guy that is well-surrounded and he needs good people around him to show him that work is important -- and if does work, he's going to have great success."
Lemaire said Gaborik could be that much better if he worked hard on a regular basis.
"He works -- it's not that he doesn't work that hard, he works hard," Lemaire said. "I would love to see him on a more regular basis, that if he would do it more, than he would be one of the top players in the league."
Lemaire believes the Wild have some outstanding young players.
"I think that the future of a team can change -- if you got some weaknesses, you can change that in a year or two," he said. "I think that with the new life, the new eyes, the new voices, I think that this organization is [heading] in the right direction.
"They got great kids, and [Mikko] Koivu and [Brent] Burns and [Nick] Schultz and [Niklas] Backstrom that they signed," he said. "You got great hockey from [Andrew] Brunette and [Owen] Nolan, and you get the kids coming up -- [Cal] Clutterbuck, that was a really good [player who] did his job, and you get other kids that will have to start to move up and play better, and the team will be in good hands."
Lemaire looks for the team to be as competitive next season as it was this season, and without the many injuries, the Wild should be able to compete for a playoff spot next year.
He sang the praises of Koivu and Clutterbuck, who each had an outstanding season, especially Koivu, the young Finn who has emerged as a team leader: "It's amazing how a player in two years, where he could become, what he could become, he has turned out to be," Lemaire said.
If I was a hockey coach, I wouldn't want to be the one to replace Lemaire. His experience as a player and coach on Stanley Cup teams earned him the respect of players that I don't believe any other coach will get.Jottings
Former Gophers wrestling star and two-time NCAA champion Cole Konrad, who weighs 315 pounds, said he is through wrestling and hopes to make it in the NFL. He worked out with the Jets two years ago and at the time wanted to concentrate on wrestling. He had a short workout with the Jets recently. The Vikings are going to give him a good look. Konrad worked out briefly for the Vikings a while ago and he will join the minicamp a week from today and try out as an offensive lineman.
Infielder Brendan Harris on his role with the Twins: "Hanging in there, every day is a battle. It was good to get the sweep [of the Angels at home] and get back to .500 and take it into the off-day." Harris has played shortstop, third and second, and his versatility is helping keep him in the lineup. "It keeps it interesting," he said. "That's kind of the role I thought I would have coming in, so I prepare myself for anything -- so then nothing really surprises me when I get [to the ballpark]."
MarQueis Gray is a freshman quarterback for the Gophers who had to delay a year before entering school because of academics. He was ranked with the best quarterbacks in the country. Gophers football coach Tim Brewster was asked if Gray, who has enjoyed a great spring practice, was better than he expected. "No. I really thought he was really good to start with," Brewster said. "He's a heck of a player. I am really pleased with his progress." Will he redshirt this year? "No. We look at him as playing this year." In fact, Gray is such a great athlete, you might see quarterback Adam Weber and Gray in the lineup at the same time.
In the late signing period, the Gophers swimming team added two athletes: North Dakota state champion Ben Griggs from Fargo, who won the 50 and 100 freestyle and the 400 free relay, and Goran Majlat, Division II NCAA champion in the 50 freestyle. Originally from Croatia, he attends Limestone College in South Carolina.
One reason Gophers wrestling coach J Robinson looks for his team to be one of the favorites to win the Big Ten, and possibly the NCAA title, next season is that his entire freshman class, which was ranked the No. 1 recruiting class in the country, was redshirted. After being held out of competition, they will have four years of eligibility. Also redshirting the past season was three-time All-America and NCAA champion Dustin Schlatter. ... Most of the varsity wrestling team will be competing unattached in the ASICS and FILA Cadet National Championships (for those 24 years old and under) this weekend in Akron, Ohio.
Devoe Joseph had a great year as a freshman for the Gophers basketball team. Now Rivals.com ranks his brother, Cory Joseph, who attends Henderson (Nev.) Findlay Prep, as one of the outstanding players in the country after putting on a great performance in the Real Deal basketball workouts held in Little Rock, Ark., last week. "Over the weekend, the ranked three-star prospect dramatically raised his stock," reported Rivals.com. "Quickly climbing the ranks of 2010 point guards, Joseph might skip a fourth star on his way to five." The Gophers are definitely very interested in the younger Joseph.