Let the Red Wings fans take it for granted: Derek Lalonde isn’t in Detroit recreating the Tampa Bay Lightning. The team’s new head coach, a former protege of Jon Cooper, knows he must be patient with his recovery team.
In Cooper’s second full season at the helm, 2014-2015, the “Bolts” reached the Stanley Cup Finals. Now that his assistant of the past four years, Lalonde, has been hired by the Wings, some might expect him to wave his wand and all troubles suddenly go away.
“I expect him to do things his way, not necessarily the Tampa Bay Lightning or Jon Cooper way. I hired Derek for his journey and I think he’s smart enough. He’s where he is because he’s been able to adapt, learn and grow from that experience,” General Manager Steve Yzerman said during the presentation to Lalonde media on Friday.
The American built up this experience as a pilot in the ranks of universities, in the USHL, the ECHL and the American League. He then joined Lightning in 2018/19 and helped the team take it to the next level and win back-to-back championships.
A pink future?
Seasons in Detroit followed and resembled one another during Jeff Blashill’s reign. The Michigan club has missed the Spring Ball for the past six years. It’s still too early for Lalonde to think about ending this unfortunate streak.
“We got good in Tampa […] as we focused on the process. I know it sounds cliche, but sitting here and talking about making the playoffs and our place in the table or our number of wins, I think it’s crazy, it can hurt us. It can go the wrong way,” said the 49-year-old.
What is promising about the Red Wings is the prospect bench. Moritz Seider, who was this season’s Calder Trophy winner, and Lucas Raymond will be at the heart of the rebuild. Players like captain Dylan Larkin, Jakub Vrana, Tyler Bertuzzi and Filip Hronek form the core that Lalonde can rely on.
“Obviously not all the pieces are there, but at the same time we have some interesting pieces to build on. That’s what attracted me to this job because I could see a foundation,” he said.
The one who will have a lot of work this summer is Yzerman. The GM has plenty of room under the salary cap and must decide whether to continue the adventure with specific veterans.
For the first time in years, there may be a light at the end of the tunnel in Detroit.