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NHL - US Sports: Lalonde links up with Red Wings

The Detroit Red Wings have hired Tampa Bay Lightning assistant Derek Lalonde as their new Head Coach, but what does this mean for the future of the sleeping giants?

Lalonde's journey to the top

Lalonde moves to 'hockey town' following four seasons with the Lightning where he helped the team to three straight Stanley Cup Finals, winning the championship back-to-back in 2019/20 and 2020/21.

The 49-year-old was brought into the Lightning organisation by now Red Wings General Manager Steve Yzerman back in 2018.

During Lalonde's inaugural campaign, Tampa Bay won their first Presidents' Trophy setting a franchise record with 128 points and tying the NHL's single-season record of 62 wins previously set by the 1995/96 Red Wings.

Overall, Tampa Bay went 192-77-10 in the regular season and 46-26 in the playoffs with Lalonde on their coaching staff and Yzerman believes he is now ready to take the next step in his career as an NHL Head Coach.

Success has followed Lalonde

Lalonde has been patient on his journey to becoming a number one in the NHL, developing his lead coaching ability in both the AHL and ECHL before joining the Lightning.

With the Toledo Walleye from 2014 through to 2016, Lalonde guided the team to a 97-35-7-5 record, resulting in two consecutive Brabham Cup titles as the ECHL's regular season champion.

Prior to that, Lalonde worked in the junior USHL with Green Bay Gamblers and captured the Clark Cup as Head Coach and General Manager in 2012.

It's his hard work, dedication and consistent success which Yzerman says attracts him to Lalonde, coupled with what he describes as an infectious personality with excellent communication skills.

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Time is right, but in limited supply

The timing feels right for Lalonde, but the pressure of trying to wake an 11-time winner of the Stanley Cup and member of the Original Six from its slumber will certainly be a challenge.

Lalonde has spoken of focussing on a process, of doing the right things, the right way, which he feels should lead to better results, although it may take time, which Yzerman and the Red Wings may be running out of.

As a player and Captain, Yzerman led the Wings to five first-place regular season finishes and three Stanley Cups (1997, 1998 and 2002) so has plenty of good will in the bank.

However, the Red Wings have now missed the playoffs for six straight seasons, and patience in Yzerman's ability to lead the franchise to success off the ice is beginning to wear thin for some of the Detroit faithful.

Talent to work with

Lalonde has an array of young talent at his disposal including Detroit's 2020 first round pick Lucas Raymond and Calder Trophy winner as the NHL rookie of the year defenceman Moritz Seider.

Raymond, 20, scored 57 points (23 goals, 34 assists) in 82 games during his first season in the NHL while Seider, 21, made an even bigger impression amassing 50 points (seven goals, 43 assists) from the blue-line.

Forward Tyler Bertruzzi, 27, produced a career best 62 points (30 goals, 32 assists) in 68 games and Captain Dylan Larkin, 25, also bounced back from a below-par couple of campaigns to lead the Red Wings in points (69) and goals (31).

The significant progression of the four was a highlight of a season which saw Detroit appear like early playoff contenders before dropping down to sixth in the Atlantic Division (32-40-10) and led to Jeff Blashill losing his job.

Red Wings have cap space

Yzerman and Lalonde have over $30-million in cap space to work with and so will be active in the off-season market to bring in experienced support for their core of youngsters.

Most expect 19-year-old defenseman Simon Edvinsson to push for a roster spot come the new season but the 6'5" Swede won't be the only answer to Detroit's obvious main weakness.

The Red Wings conceded the third most goals in the NHL last season (312) and their 3.78 goals-against-average was second highest.

Netminder Alex Nedeljkovic actually produced a respectable .901 save-percentage in 59 games of his debut season, and support for him is certainly of priority.

Busy few months ahead

Lalonde has several exciting blocks from which to build from, a clear idea of where immediate improvement is required and the obvious faith and confidence of Yzerman who is clearly a huge admirer.

The rookie NHL bench boss must build a strong support system around him, and, with Yzerman, make key off-season decisions to successfully complete the final chapters of the Red Wings' lengthily re-build.

If they manage that, success could follow for a city who hold the sport and their team so dear to their hearts.

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