When he walks out behind the Detroit bench Tuesday in Tampa, Red Wings coach Derek Lalonde will be looking across at a team in the Lightning that helped to mold him into the man who was ready to coach an NHL team when the Red Wings came calling last summer.
“The growth we had to do,” Lalonde lists as the lesson he learned the most while winning two Stanley Cups as an assistant coach of the Lightning. “The transformation we had to make from good to great and how we had to manage our game and hold some of our players accountable in different areas of our game.
“It was a little more team over self in what winning looks like, more sacrifice of some things. So, I think that helped me immensely as a coach. Winning and winning it all are a lot different.
“We went through the hard way in Tampa, where we broke an NHL record for wins in a season (actually tied Red Wings’ 1995-96 mark of 62) and we weren’t playing the right way. That helped and it’s helped me get a better feel of what winning looks like.”
Those lessons learned in Tampa he now seeks to implement with the Red Wings. The objective is to eventually get this Detroit club to where the Lightning ultimately arrived.
“Obviously, we’re in a different spot here than we were in Tampa, but a lot of it is the same,” Lalonde said. “You can see us trying to establish some winning habits within our game.”
With Red Wings, Lalonde Is The Man
There’s an old saying that assistant coaches make suggestions. Head coaches make decisions.
“Obviously, the bucks stops with me,” Lalonde recognizes. “I probably have to hold guys a lot more accountable than I did in Tampa. That’s what (Lightning coach) Jon (Cooper) did. I probably didn’t appreciate how much I was taking from Coop until I actually was here becoming a head coach on a day to day basis. I’ll be forever appreciative of Jon and the time I spent with him.
“I played a role very similar to our assistants here, where I might be an outlet for them every day with the video, the skill development after, a different relationship. So it’s a little bit different but I still stick to who I am and what I am.”
One clear advantage to being with the Lightning brings up another age-old hockey slogan – get off the bus at the rink with best team.
For several years, Lalonde did that in Tampa. He knows he won’t be doing that on Turesday night at Amalie Arena.
“I probably didn’t appreciate how good it was,” Lalonde said. “No knock on our guys, because our guys have been great, playing above themselves every since I got there , but when you get away from it, you probably appreciate how much a few of those guys, how much of a difference-maker they are.
“There’s many nights we didn’t play our best team game and there were some individual efforts that helped us get by. I think also managing elite talent, in having that elite talent come around to winning hockey, some of those stars 100 percent sacrificed their individual game for those two Stanley Cups and three Stanley Cup final runs.”