DETROIT (AP) — The Detroit Red Wings have hired Derek Lalonde to coach their rebuilding team, hoping the two-time Stanley Cup-winning assistant can take all the right steps to make the franchise relevant again.
“He has proven himself to be an outstanding coach at every level and has spent the past four seasons in the National Hockey League as part of a very successful program in Tampa Bay,” general manager Steve Yzerman said in a statement. “We feel he is ready for the next step in his career as the head coach of the Detroit Red Wings.”
Yzerman was GM of the Lightning when he promoted Cooper to his first NHL head coach job in 2013. It marks the first time an active assistant to Cooper has jumped to a main job in the NHL.
“I am ready to get started with our group,” Lalonde said in a statement. “There is a bright future ahead in Detroit.”
Lalonde, 49, like Cooper, won an American Hockey League title with the Green Bay Gamblers. He coached in the ECHL and American Hockey League before joining the Lightning.
After a two-month search, Lalonde replaces Jeff Blashill, who had not picked up the team option on his contract after seven seasons. Blashill had a 0.447 point percentage, the second worst in the league at the time – not counting the debut season of the expansion Seattle Kraken.
Yzerman didn’t reveal much when he spoke to reporters early in the search, but he did say it would be a plus to be familiar with the new man in charge.
“Derek has an impressive resume, especially the work he has done with young players and prospects throughout his career,” President and CEO Chris Ilitch said in a statement. “We are delighted to have him lead behind the Red Wings bench. I would also like to commend Steve and his staff for carrying out a very thorough and detailed search process”
Detroit has not earned a place in the playoffs for six straight years after playing in 25 consecutive postseasons and winning the Stanley Cup four times. But Lalonde does have some players who are potentially capable of leading a turnaround.
Veterans Dylan Larkin, Tyler Bertuzzi and Jakub Vrana are proven players up front, and Lucas Raymond, who was also a standout rookie last season, is a promising forward joining them in the lineup.
Calder Trophy winner Moritz Seider will anchor the defense for years to come, filling a void that hasn’t been filled since Nicklas Lidstrom retired a decade ago.
Yzerman, a Hall of Fame player with the Red Wings, has for the first time a hand-picked coach with the once-proud franchise he leads.
After drafting and acquiring talent to make Tampa Bay a two-time champion and perpetual contender, Yzerman has consistently said it will take time to make Detroit a winner again and has refused to impose timelines for rebuilding.
Lalonde will fire as fast as he can to address the Red Wings’ shortcomings with relative stability next season, after Blashill coached with job insecurity in recent years.
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