The Detroit Red Wings are 11-6-5 through the first 22 games of the season. There is a lot to be excited about surrounding this team, but there is plenty of room for continued growth.
What is your impression of Detroit Red Wings head coach Derek Lalonde so far?
First and foremost, I think Lalonde is a fantastic interview. He gives insightful answers that show that he has a grip on where his team is at. He’s also good for a laugh every now and then, and I appreciate coaches that aren’t all business when they’re answering the media’s questions.
Second, while his general approach to the job sounds similar to his predecessor’s (process, process, process), the Red Wings cannot look any more different this season than they did under Jeff Blashill.
They play an up-tempo, aggressive style at even strength and on special teams, which is a big reason why fans seem to be a lot more invested this season than in past seasons. Furthermore, Lalonde seems committed to his lineup in a way that Blashill wasn’t, generally speaking. Everybody knows about the “Blashill Blender,” but Lalonde seems to be the antithesis of that. He has remained committed to his lineup, especially on defense, where the top four remains untouched from the start of the season.
He also seems to be unwilling to change goaltenders, even in the event of a blowout. When Ville Husso was pulled in Detroit’s recent game against the Toronto Maple Leafs, it was the first time this season that Lalonde decided to switch goalies. I’ve liked what I’ve seen from Lalonde (except for that goaltending thing), but I’ve mostly been impressed by how the team has responded to him. This year’s team is a group that you can’t count out until they’re being blown out, and I attribute a lot of that to the new bench boss.
Captain Dylan Larkin’s future is uncertain. Do you expect a contract extension to be completed? If so, what kind of term and money are you expecting?
I know that the further we get into the season without an extension, the more the idea of Larkin playing for another team will pop up – it’s the nature of the beast. However, I truly believe that a deal will get done, even if it’s at the 11th hour. I believe Larkin when he says that he doesn’t want to play anywhere else, and I believe that he relishes the opportunity to be the captain of this team; there is no other team in the NHL where he would have that opportunity. GM Steve Yzerman also has experience working out a last-minute deal for his captain.
In 2016, he signed Steven Stamkos to an eight-year deal under 48 hours before the Tampa Bay Lightning captain was set to become a free agent. Obviously, you hope it doesn’t get to that point with Larkin, but Yzerman is no stranger to working out last-minute deals.
As for what the deal will look like, I think recent deals signed by Mathew Barzal of the New York Islanders and Roope Hintz of the Dallas Stars give us an idea of what Larkin’s deal might look like. Hintz signed for eight years at $8.45 million, and Barzal signed for eight years at $9.15 million. I think somewhere between those two benchmarks is where Larkin will land, though I think it’ll land much closer to Barzal’s number.