New coach Derek Lalonde is officially in charge of the Detroit Red Wings, Naturally, comparables are a popular topic in training camp.
One of the main themes is going something like this:
Throw Jeff Blashill under the bus without saying that your throwing Jeff Blashill under the bus.
There’s been plenty of paralleling Lalonde’s desired style of play to that of deposed Red Wings coach Blashill. The early returns from players comparing the systems of the two coaches are that the differences are stark.
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“It’s very impressive,” Red Wings captain Dylan Larkin said of the type of game Lalonde desires for the Red Wings to play this season. “Obviously, he’s coming from Tampa, so it’s a lot of things they’ve done.
“It’s kind of eye opening. We play against them quite a bit and they’re always very difficult nights.”
Many nights under Blashill’s tutelage were difficult nights for the Red Wings, and that’s not to suggest it was entirely of his doing. There was a lot wrong, a number of holes in the lineup that he was often left to put out on the ice.
Red Wings Learning the Tampa Bay Way
In Lalonde, though, the players are seeing someone who’s coming in with a resume of success. He’s arriving from an organization with three consecutive Stanley Cup final appearances. That span saw the Lightning earning two championships.
It’s certainly lending a lot of gravitas to what he’s telling them. It lends credence to the ways he’s showing them how to be a more effective and efficient hockey team.
“There’s been great communication and he’s very organized,” Larkin said. “He believes in what he’s preaching, which I think is great walking into a new lockerroom.
“He’s made a great impression on the guys.”
Day 2. ✔️
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Off the top, Lalonde wants two things to be the trademark of his Red Wings clubs – he wants them to play fast, and he seeks for them to compete as if their lives depend upon it. Through the first two days, he’s finishing off every practice with a battle drill, pitting players against each other in some sort of one-on-one competition.
“I think compete is a learned behavior for some,” Lalonde explained. “I think it can be taught and we’re gonna introduce it as much as we can throughout this camp.”
Lalonde’s Systems Sublime In their Simplicity
There’s another trait that the players appear to be quickly embracing about the Lalonde way of doing things. They’re appreciative that the structuring is in simplicity and predictability.
“Knowing our options and knowing where the puck’s going,” Red Wings forward Michael Rasmussen was listing as his favorite aspect of Lalonde’s systems. “I think if everyone’s on the same page and everyone knows the reads, it just makes it predictable and easy.
“For me I would say that’s the biggest thing that stands out. It’s easier to play when you know where the puck’s going. Everyone’s on the same wavelength as far as the plays and the spots to put the puck.”
Take Lalonde’s designs for breaking out the puck, for instance. They’re built around making simple reads and taking the safe, easy play with the puck.
“Everyone knows when certain situations happen what’s gonna happen with the puck and we’re all on the same page,” Larkin said. “Just how organized he was at that, how clear the message was, I think it’s gonna be huge for our team to be that organized and everyone’s on the same page.”
Red Wings Defense Will Never Rest
The Red Wings were the No. 31 team in the NHL in goals against last season. Thus, shoring up in that area of the game is Job 1 for this team. It’s in this area of their on-ice deportment that the players are already recognizing changes in approach. The Lalonde method differs significantly from the Blashill way of doing things.
“I was impressed how it starts in the neutral zone and even in the offensive zone,” Larkin explained. “How we track the puck and how organized we are in the neutral zone to where it makes teams have to chip it in.
“I really believe in how he sets up his neutral zone and how he wants us to play through the neutral zone is gonna make it really hard on teams. Where in the past I think they’ve come at us in three lanes and we haven’t really been able to stop them in the neutral zone.”
It’s only Day 3 of camp. Yet it’s abundantly clear the new coach is creating a buzz inside the Red Wings locker room.
“I can already see the buy in,” Larkin said of Lalonde’s blueprint for success. “Guys are talking about it after practice that they really like it. How simple it is, how we feel we’ll have the puck more. Defense in itself is having the puck and doing the right things with the puck. I believe that’ll help a lot.”