Derek Lalonde was hired as the 28th head coach of the Detroit Red Wings in order for the team to not be blown out of games as much as they did under Jeff Blashill. Through the first 10 games of the 2022-23 NHL season, this has not necessarily been the case. What is the cause of this?
Who is Derek Lalonde?
Lalonde has been successful at every level he has coached at. From the Toledo Walleye of the ECHL to the Iowa Wild of the AHL, he has had coaching experience at the lower levels of professional hockey. Lalonde was most recently an assistant coach for the Tampa Bay Lightning. What remains to be seen is whether or not that success in the lower levels of professional hockey will translate to the best hockey league in the world.
Lalonde said during his introductory press conference that winning would result from a process. If the team did things the right way, wins would follow. Through the first 9 games of Lalonde’s coaching tenure, the Red Wings have a record of 4-3-2. During this time the Red Wings have given up four more goals than they have scored.
Goaltender Ville Husso has separated himself in these 10 games when it comes to the starting goalie position. Alex Nedeljkovic was also looking for a fresh start under Lalonde. During the 2021-22 NHL season, Blashill repeatedly started Nedeljkovic only to see him give up many goals. Blashill would then pull Nedeljkovic only to bring him back when the backup goalie struggled. Perhaps this has shaken Nedeljkovic’s confidence.
Red Wings Injured Forwards
In defense of Lalonde’s early tenure, the Red Wings have had a rash of injuries to their forward group in the first 10 games of the season. Tyler Bertuzzi broke a finger on his hand while blocking a shot against the New Jersey Devils and was placed on injured reserve. Bertuzzi is arguably the second most important forward on the Red Wings roster behind captain Dylan Larkin. The vaccination rules for travelling to Canada changed prior to the start of the 2022-23 season meaning that Bertuzzi would have been able to play in games in Canada for the first time since the 2019-20 season.
This is the latest data point in Bertuzzi’s career that makes a new contract being offered by general manager Steve Yzerman complicated. The Red Wings and Bertuzzi have already had contentious contract negotiations in the past. Bertuzzi scored 30 goals and added 32 assists for 62 points in 68 games played during the 2021-22 season which was the second most points behind Larkin. Larkin will also be a free agent after the 2022-23 season.
Oskar Sundqvist has also been out of Detroit’s lineup as he is dealing with what Lalonde called an upper-body injury. Acquired from the St. Louis Blues along with defenseman Jake Walman in exchange for defensemen Nick Leddy and Luke Witkowski, Sundqvist was brought in to make the Red Wings more challenging to play against. Walman was placed on injured reserve by the Red Wings as he is recovering from shoulder surgery which he had in the summer.
Robby Fabbri is another former Blue on the Red Wings’ roster that is injured. Fabbri tore the ACL in his right knee in March and has yet to play a game during the 2022-23 season. This is not the first knee injury that Fabbri has had. While in St. Louis he had two ACL tears to his left leg. Despite this, Fabbri has the talent to net 20 goals for the Red Wings when he is cleared to return to play.
The Red Wings are only 10 games into their 2022-23 season. There is plenty of time to adapt to Derek Lalonde’s systems. Lalonde should also adapt these systems to the players he has at his availability. The question that has been answered in the first 10 games is who is the number one goaltender in Detroit? At the time of writing this, the Red Wings stand in last place in the Atlantic Division with 12 points.
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