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Advice From Lalonde to Red Wings Fans: Don’t be Talking About Playoffs

Derek Lalonde finds it exciting to be the new coach of the Detroit Red Wings but cautions there’s much work still to be done with this team



Derek Lalonde, Red Wings coach
New Red Wings coach Derek Lalonde with owner Chris Ilitch and GM Steve Yzerman.

It wasn’t on par with the iconic rant of former NFL coach Jim Mora but new Detroit Red Wings coach Derek Lalonde made one thing abundantly clear: If you tuned in his introductory press conference seeking promises of immediate playoff glory, you’ve got the wrong guy, the wrong place and the wrong time.

“I think I’d have to temper expectations,” Lalonde began. “We got great in Tampa when we literally started focusing on the process. And I know it sounds like such a cliche. But to sit there and talk about making the playoffs and where we’re gonna be, or putting a number on wins, I think that’s foolish. That can hurt you and you end up going the wrong way.”

Lalonde wants to see growth in the team in several key areas before suggesting any visions of grandeur being just around the corner.

Lalonde Says It’s All About The Process

“For me it’s gonna be the process in some obvious things – our team defense, special teams improvement – no different than any other team throughout the the league,” Lalonde said. “But if we take care of the process in doing the little things, if our team defense improves through our stopping of pucks habits, our risk in our game, our management of the puck, then we’ll be improved and hopefully that takes care of itself.”

After idling on the cusp of an Eastern Conference playoff spot during the first half of the 2021-22 NHL season, the Red Wings wond up fading badly. Detroit’s finishing total of 74 points left the club sitting 26 points in arrears of the eighth and final postseason placing.

“I don’t think sitting here now, if that’s something that is a goal or is talked about,” Lalonde said of postseason play following the 2022-23 NHL regular season. “Deep down, of course we want to make the playoffs, we want to win.”

Long Range Future Of Red Wings Is Bright

At the same time, Lalonde was frankly admitting there was no way he’d be taking the Red Wings job if he didn’t see playoff success in the club’s long-range future.

“I want to win,” Lalonde emphasized. “There’s no doubt about it. I probably ultimately don’t accept this position if I don’t see winning somewhere along the way or down the road. But at the same time, my why is getting this process in order the correct way. Emphasizing the right things that are going to lead us to being successful going forward.

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“You don’t get into this profession if there is not a huge passion to win but what my career has allowed me to do is understand what it takes to win and the process sometimes that it can take to win. It’s not an immediate thing.

“We learned that the hard way in Tampa early on there. But deep down, no question about it, my why is ultimately going to be about winning.

“Even interviewing with (GM) Steve (Yzerman), just the passion of him as a patient manager, selling this as we’re in the middle of a process but man, there’s some underlying passion with him, too. We want to win and we’re gonna do it correctly and the right way. It’s my job to put in that process and hopefully we’re talking about playoffs sooner rather than later but it’s gonna be about the process.”

Lalonde Found Red Wings Impressive From Afar

Lalonde was facing the Red Wings frequently as an Atlantic Division opponent with Tampa Bay. He is seeing the raw materials in place that can be evolving into something of value.

“It was always an interesting process playing Detroit because I think the team you were talking about that was flirting with the playoffs at midseason, that was a really hard team to play against,” Lalonde said of his time as an assistant coach with the Lightning. “So that gets you excited on what could be.”

Juat as quickly, he was cautioning that there’s still much work to be done in Detroit.

“Obviously the goal is to be a little more consistent with things,” Lalonde said. “Obviously some of the young talent, I don’t see them every day, I’m not in the every day process with them but you see these guys play and the impact they make at such a young age. It’s very exciting.

“Obviously, not all the pieces are there but at the same time there’s some exciting pieces to build around. It’s attracted me to this job in that you could see some foundation being built. Obviously a long ways to go but there’s some things to work with here. That really excites me as a coach.”