Derek Lalonde already has an impressive resume as an NHL assistant coach. It might get even better in a couple of weeks.
Lalonde, under head coach Jon Cooper, has worked for two Stanley Cup-championship teams with Tampa Bay. The Lightning will try to make it three in a row when they face the Colorado Avalanche in the Stanley Cup Final, which starts on Wednesday.
Detroit Red Wings general manager Steve Yzerman has indicated he will consider candidates with and without NHL head coaching experience to replace Jeff Blashill.
Lalonde surely is on Yzerman’s radar. Yzerman knows him well, having been the Lightning GM in 2018 when Lalonde was hired.
Family helps. Yzerman in 2013 promoted Cooper, who had coached the Lightning’s AHL team, Syracuse.
“I had the good fortune of working with Jon,” Yzerman said on May 2. “I knew the guy, I’d worked with the guy and … was like, I’m confident that he’ll do a good job in this role.”
He added, “I find it difficult to really hire people that you don’t really know, that you haven’t worked with or somebody that you worked closely with and knows kind of the way I want things done or the way I do things . … But I don’t want to rule anything out or exclude anyone or anybody because they have coached (in the NHL) or they haven’t coached, or they’ve not been in North America or whatnot.”
Lalonde, a college goaltender for SUNY Cortland, began his coaching career as an assistant at Ferris State in 2003. After three years there, he spent five seasons as an assistant at Denver.
In his first stint as a head coach, Lalonde led the Green Bay Gamblers to the USHL’s Clark Cup championship in 2011-12, earning coach of the year honors.
He later won division titles in each of his two seasons as head coach with the Toledo Walleye, the Red Wings’ ECHL affiliate. Lalonde won the John Brophy Award as ECHL Coach of the year his first season, when the Walleye improved by 58 points, the largest leap in league history, and reached the third round of the playoffs.
He then moved up to the AHL, spending two seasons as head coach for the Iowa Wild, who posted a 22-point improvement and their first winning record during Lalonde’s first year.
Lalonde, who turns 50 on Aug. 18, clearly has a history of success, which has continued at the highest level.
Lalonde missed Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals against the New York Rangers after his mother died. That prompted Lightning players to dedicate the game to Lalonde and his family. Tampa Bay won 4-1 to even the series and closed it out by winning the next two games.
The Red Wings need a coach who will instill strong defensive principles in a team that finished second from last in goals-against average after its structure fell apart over the final two months.
Yzerman reportedly has spoken to Barry Trotz and former Rangers head coach David Quinn, among others. He has indicated he is in no rush to name his next head coach and mentioned sometime around the Stanley Cup Final as a soft deadline.
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