It's officially a new era in the Motor City, as the Detroit Red Wings have themselves their 28th head coach in franchise history in the form of Derek LalondeDerek Lalonde, who was hired by general manager Steve Yzerman earlier this week.
A former assistant coach with the Tampa Bay Lightning, he had just helped them to the Stanley Cup Finals for the third consecutive year, where their dreams of becoming the 1st NHL squad since the early 1980's New York Islanders to win three straight championships were dashed by Detroit's former rival, the Colorado Avalanche last Sunday night.
Lalonde was officially introduced to media members yesterday morning at Little Caesars Arena, and he would soon sit down with radio broadcaster Ken Kal to discuss the kind of identity he wants to mold his team into, as well as the honor and responsibility that comes with coaching a historic Original 6 franchise.
"We're trying to grow, and it's going to take some time," Lalonde explained. "Steve was clear in this interview process that it won't happen overnight, but he likes where it's going and where it's building. Me, seeing from afar, I can see positives. They were a tough team to play against, and you could see the young talented players making an impact in this league, which is very hard. You can see building blocks that get me excited."
Coming to an Original 6 franchise with the history and passion for the game is a "huge honor" for Lalonde, and he's going to make sure that the Red Wings players treat it that way.
Derek Lalonde knows the history and passion of Red Wings hockey
"The history of it, it's special and deep," Lalonde said of Detroit's hockey history. "Make no mistake, it's a huge honor and responsibility."
"There's a lot of history here and passion," he continued. "I think that history is very important, I think our players need to know that it's an honor to be a part of this organization, and you'd better treat it as such. I'll take that approach as the coach of the Detroit Red Wings."
Lalonde understood that the Red Wings fan base was understandably frustrated at times last season, catching glimpses of greatness with the likes of Calder Trophy winner Moritz Seider and rookie forward Lucas Raymond while at the same time making it far to easy for the opposition to score.
"I think you saw parts of it, a team that's on top of you and won't be giving up time and space, a team that's hard to play against," Lalonde said. "I think some of the frustration of the fan base is that I understand they saw parts of it, but not consistent enough. And obviously, for whatever reason, things began to unravel near the end of the season."
"I think any good, quality team, it all looks the same - a team that plays on top of you and not giving up space. I look at the evolution of the Colorado Avalanche, they're a Stanley Cup power team. Until we played them, I didn't appreciate how good they were defensively. It will be the goal of all of us to make that identity - start from the net out and go from there."
"I don't think it's any mystery that our team defense will have to improve from where it was last year," he continued. "I think it's what you prioritize and what you care about and have a passion for. For myself and the staff, we're going to emphasize being better within our team defense. Now it will be up to the guys to buy in and work towards that goal."