Sunday, August 7, 2022

Red Wings coach Lalonde knows it will take time to win

Detroit — Derek Lalonde dons a jersey on Friday after the Detroit Red Wings introduced him as their new coach. Standing to his left was General Manager Steve Yazerman with a big smile, and the connection was clear.

Yazerman helped make the Tampa Bay Lightning its GM from 2010-18 and a senior advisor in 2018-19.

Lalonde joined Lightning in 2018-19 as an assistant to John Cooper. He helped them win the Stanley Cup in 2020 and 2021 and came close to winning again this year, losing to the Colorado Avalanche in six games in the Stanley Cup Finals.

But hiring wasn’t that easy, and the road to the Stanley Cup playoffs won’t be that easy either.

Yazerman only worked with Lalonde for one season, so he didn’t hire her because of their relationship. He found great references to Lalonde in and out of Lightning, and after interviewing him, he felt that Lalonde’s personality and philosophy were best suited.

Although Lalonde has not coached the NHL, he coached the United States Hockey League’s Green Bay from 2011–14, the ECHL’s Toledo from 2014–16, and the American Hockey League’s Iowa from 2016–18.

“I hope he does things his own way, not necessarily the Tampa Bay Lightning way or the John Cooper way,” Yagerman said. “I hired Derek to do it my way, and I think he’s bright enough … He’s gotten to where he’s been, by learning from his experience and adjusting from growing. “

There is a lot to adjust, learn and grow for the Red Wings. They have missed the playoffs in the past six seasons, and when asked why they cannot fight for the playoffs for the next season, Lalonde said they have to overcome expectations.

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“We got great in Tampa when we literally just…” said Lalonde, her voice retreating. “We started focusing on the process. I know it sounds like such a cliché, but to sit there and talk about making the playoffs and where we’re going to be or putting numbers on wins Well, I think it’s silly, and it might hurt you. It could go the wrong way.”

Lalonde said Yzerman was “very clear throughout the interview process that it’s going to take some time.”

There are two processes here: One is building the roster. The second is creating the identity of the team – its structure, style, habits.

The roster shows promise but a lot of work is in progress.

Yazerman took over as GM on April 19, 2019, and has only had three drafts. His first selection was Defenseman Moritz Cedar 6 that year; Cedar won the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year. His next was the first round pick forward Lucas Raymond at No. 4 in 2020; Raymond finished fourth in Calder voting by the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association. His next first round was defenseman Simon Edwinson at No. 6 in 2021; Edwinson is 19 years old and is expected to debut in North America next season.

“Obviously not all pieces are there, but at the same time, there are some exciting pieces to build,” Lalonde said. “It also attracted me to this job that you could see some foundation building up. Obviously there’s a long way to go, but there’s a lot of work to do. There are things to work on that really Excites me as a coach.”

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Identity gets a fresh start from Lalonde.

Last season under Jeff Blashill, the Red Wings were 25th offensively (2.77 goals per game) and 31st defensively (3.78 goals per game). He was 26th in power plays (16.3 percent) and 32nd in penalty kills (73.8 percent). Lalonde talked about playing more consistently and managing the puck better.

“It’s my job to start that process, and hopefully we’re talking about the playoffs as soon as possible, but it’s going to be about the process,” Lalonde said.

Lalonde brought on the 2018–19 Lightning, which won 62 games and the Presidents Trophy as the NHL’s top regular-season team, only to be swept by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the first round of the Eastern Conference. They tied the NHL record for the win held by the 1995–96 Red Wings, who won the Presidents’ Trophy and lost to the Avalanche in the Western Conference Finals that season.

Like the Red Wings, who won the Cup with Yazerman as captain in 1997, 1998 and 2002, and with Yazerman in the front office in 2008, the Lightning learned from experience, changing their way of playing and later winning the championship. As such, the Red Wings now want to emulate Lightning, and it doesn’t matter if their roster isn’t ready yet.

“Yeah, we were in different situations [in Tampa]But we didn’t get to another level until we played that way, and to me, what matters is your staff,” Lalonde said. “Are you above plays? Are you on top of plays? It’s those details and habits that drive you to victory, so those will be our goals.”

Nation World News Desk
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