Derek Lalonde’s Process to Turnaround the Red Wings
Generally when teams fail to make the playoffs it’s due to lack of talent. It’s just the nature of things. When you don’t have a team with a strong top line, and at least one defensive pairing that can eat 25+ minutes a night, it makes it hard to win games. That’s why quick fixes don’t generally work out.
It’s hard to win games in this league, and when you have a certain amount of money you can spend, it makes it that much more difficult to create a dynasty. Because if you get players like Connor McDavid, Auston Matthews, Leon Draisaitl, then you are going to be limited on what the rest of your team will look like. When you have to pay a singular player $12,000,000+ AAV, your options for every other position is limited.
Lalonde is ushering in a new culture in Detroit Red Wings hockey. He was instrumental in Tampa Bay’s ascent from being one of the worst teams in the league to being champions. He has seen failure and success and understands how to deal with those tough ups and downs that this team will undoubtedly face.
What Have we Seen Thus Far?
A competitive, hard-working team, who takes the body, and does the right thing. That’s what we can say about this Red Wings team thus far into the season. And yes, we know it’s a small sample size, but the first couple games of the year sets the tone.
Last season, the team worked hard independently and as individuals. They did not work as a unit. They weren’t buying in to the process, the coaching, each other, they were playing hockey out there as individuals. And let’s face it- if that’s how a team plays in this league, you’ll never see anything come from that organization.
Yzerman reunited with Lalonde this summer. Their commitment to the process is evident from prior successes. Here is what I have seen thus far:
It makes sense why Steve Yzerman took a large step forward this offseason in signing Andrew Copp, David Perron, Dominik Kubalik, Olli Maatta and Ben Chariot. When you have a new coach, players must adjust. Not only are the new guys new, but the returning players are also new in the eyes of the coach.
Dylan Larkin continues to play motivated. Co-leading the team in points and leading all forwards in ice-time. His attention to detail in all three zones adds to his dynamic speed and game-changing abilities.
Raymond and Seider, the sophomores, have continued success. While their starts may have been slow, Seider leads the team in ice-time and Raymond right behind Larkin in ice-time by forwards. While the two youngsters have not been filling the net, their commitment to getting pucks out of the defensive zone and making sure they keep it simple has proven they earned trust from their new coach.
We have also seen two additions via free agency this season take charge of the top-six with Tyler Bertuzzi and Jakub Vrana being out of the line-up. Kubalik and Perron share the team lead in points and goals, respectively, with Larkin. In the past, the depth was poor and when top-six players were out of the lineup, the team really struggled.
Ville Husso has played well in coach Lalonde’s system. The defense has cleared the net front and Husso has made the saves he has needed to make. Husso was the number one goaltender in the St. Louis Blues system before folk hero Jordan Binnington took the net by store. The Wings benefitted from the Blues goalie surplus and Husso has not disappointed posting a record of 3-1-1.
Alex Nedeljkovic has found himself in an early controversy. Is he a goalie that can be part of a 1A/1B tandem? I believe he is despite his 1-2-1 record. The Buffalo game skewed his stats. It will be interesting to see how he improves this year. He needs to earn a contract this summer, I am sure he knows he needs to solidify his game to earn his future with the Wings.
Speak of contract years, Olli Maatta signed a one-year deal. He has been the biggest surprise of the team. While to do not thing he will match his pace for 50+ points, he has stepped up while the like of Seider and Hronek get in to gear offensively. He looks like the former 1st round pick the Pittsburgh Penguins were so high on.
While fans may be disappointed with Copp’s slow start offensively, his efforts with Chariot, have made the Wings more formidable and rigid in the front of their own net and all four corners. This may be the most underrated and unseen part of the process. In fact, we saw the BIGGEST line in hockey with Michael Rasmussen (6’6”, 211 lbs.) Elmer Soderblom (6’8”, 244 lbs.) and Oskar Sundqvist (6’3”, 220 lbs.). The Wings are no longer soft. have the capability to dominate in all three zones.
If the Wings can hold firm, it will appear as the team made deadline acquisitions when Bertuzzi, Fabbri, Vrana, and Walman return to the lineup.
Lalonde has his work cut out for him. We have seen ups and downs in the first 8th of the season. The team can compete in all aspects of the game. Working hard, taking the body, and doing the right thing are infectious. It is Lalonde’s job to keep the team on track, ride the highs, and make sure the lows are never too low.
We have seen it all in October, what will November bring?