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Red Wings Lalonde Feels Frustration of Fanbase

Detroit is missing the NHL postseason for a seventh successive season



Red Wings bench
Red Wings coach Derek Lalonde is sensing frustration within the team's fanbase. (Photo by Michael Caples)

Detroit Red Wings coach Derek Lalonde found himself in a familiar scenario for closing out the NHL regular season. He was coaching in a game involving the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The last three seasons, that regular season finale was a springboard launching a trip to the Stanley Cup final. Lalonde was an assistant coach for the Lightning on those journeys, prior to accepting Detroit’s head-coaching position last summer.

There’s no shiny silver mug dangling as a possibility this season, however. Detroit will once again be a playoff spectator. It’s the seventh successive season in which there’s been no trip to the post season for the Red Wings. That ties a franchise record originally set from 1970-71 through 1976-77 during what was hauntingly referred to as the Dead Wings era.

“It’s probably a frustrated fan base and we’re frustrated, too, because we showed flashes and signs of turning that corner, but our core is there,” Lalonde told Bally Sports following Thursday’s 5-0 loss to the Lightning. “We are building.”

Playoff Hopes Glimmered Briefly For Red Wings

For one glorious day in late February, Detroit actually was occupying the second Eastern Conference Wild Card spot thanks to a 7-1 run. The Wings were holding games in hand on the majority of the other contenders. That bubble burst almost as quickly as it inflated, though.

A 3-11-1 run over the next 15 games would be ending those dreams. At the NHL trade deadline, Tyler Bertuzzi, Filip Hronek and Oskar Sundqvist were sent packing. Injuries would claim forwards Robby Fabbri and Michael Rasmussen for the remainder of the season.

“A few days before the deadline we were in a playoff spot with games in hand,,” Lalonde said. “That wasprobably a little bit of an overachievement from the group. So I think that’s a credit to the guys. And obviously, it’s really tough to judge the staff, the group, with the type of lineup we were fielding towards the end.

“Some improved special teams, that’s a credit to the assistant coaches. Some improved D-zone coverage. Obviously, the offense was a little bit of an issue, something we can probably look at this summer, maybe structurally, but it’s probably a personnel thing.”

Optimism For The Future Springs Eternal

For sure, the words ring a bit hollow as the club is licking its wounds following on 0-4 finish to the campaign in which they were outscored 20-3. But both players and coach are suggesting that this team isn’t far from legitimately becoming that playoff contender.

“We started well, had some momentum,” forward Pius Suter told Bally Sports. “I think we just battled all the way through to the end.”

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They didn’t win the battle, but will live to fight another day again starting with the 2023-24 campaign.

“The guys battled and the guys had some good pushes,” Lalonde said. “You can see when this team pushed we were right there.

“A lot of ups and downs, but there are some things to build off here. I’m personally very excited about next year.”