Jon Cooper claims Derek Lalonde fabricated story about Andrei Vasilevskiy

Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports
Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports /

With the Detroit Red Wings failing to qualify for the NHL playoffs for the seventh straight season, head coach Derek Lalonde has taken a role as an in-studio analyst for Sportsnet on CBC in Canada during the first round of the playoffs.

Derek Lalonde has joined Ron MacLean, Jennifer Botterill, Kevin Bieksa, and Kelly Hrudey, along with insider Elliotte Friedman during the Toronto Maple Leafs and Tampa Bay Lightning series. Lalonde has fit in nicely with this group, often appearing as though he’s been on television for years in this or a similar role. Lalonde doesn’t only offer expert analysis, but having coached alongside Lightning head coach Jon Cooper for four seasons, winning two Stanley Cups and reaching the finals another time gives the viewer a unique point of view.

During Monday’s telecast, Derek Lalonde mentioned that while with the Lightning, Tampa Bay’s coaching staff restructured its defensive coverage to compensate for goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy’s weakness in tracking shots from long-range.

Jon Cooper claims that Derek Lalonde made up a story about Andrei Vasilevskiy.

Cooper squawked at that notion, essentially saying that Derek Lalonde made up the claim.

"“Sportsnet is paying him well to go give an opinion, so he’s got to make something up about that kind of stuff,” Cooper said.“He’s there because he was an assistant coach on this team, so he’s trying to offer insight and trying to give the fans something, and so he should be doing that,” the bench boss added. “He’s just got to make sure it’s accurate what he’s saying.” “Well, it’s got to be accurate before you say it; that’s my only (criticism),” he said."

I don’t believe what Derek Lalonde said is egregious or groundbreaking. I am sure the Toronto Maple Leafs are aware of Vasilevskiy’s tendencies, strengths, and weaknesses. Sure, Sportsnet is paying Lalonde, but why would he ultimately make something up? I am sure there is a code within NHL coaches about matters like this, and perhaps Derek Lalonde is offering a bit more up to the viewer than Cooper would like, but let me tell you, Lalonde has been excellent in this role and really interesting to listen too.

Andrei Vasilevskiy doesn’t seem right. He’s allowed a league-high 19 goals with a 0.856 save percentage, the lowest among all netminders who’ve played at least three games. He’s also posted an awful 4.33 goals-against average over the series’ first four games. In comparison, last year, Vasilevskiy backed the Lightning with a 0.922 save percentage and 2.52 goals against average to the Stanley Cup finals. In the two years prior, he posted a goals-against average of 1.90 in back-to-back Stanley Cup-winning postseasons.

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Perhaps if Jon Cooper had been a bit more worried about his game plan rather than what his former assistant coach was up to, the Lightning might not be on the brink of elimination. Tampa Bay is currently down three games to one to an organization that hasn’t won a playoff series since 2004.