Last year was the Detroit Red Wings first season in Coach Derek Lalonde’s system, and it provided mixed results. The Red Wings improved in many areas from the previous season, but still not enough to make real noise in the playoff race. The team enters year two in Derek Lalonde’s system with a better idea of the type of hockey he wants to play, but what does that style of hockey look like?
Red Wings Improved Defence Under Lalonde
The biggest reason for the Red Wings improvement last season was improved defence, especially when it came to blowouts. The Red Wings were on the wrong end of a rout too many times under previous coach Jeff Blashill, which changed in Lalonde’s system. The team dropped their goals against from 310 in 2021-2022 to 275 in Lalonde’s first season, nearly half a goal less per game. Playing low-event hockey is a big reason for this, as evidenced in the graphic of the tweet below.
reunited and it feels so good pic.twitter.com/hwqd8OVbxn
— JFresh (@JFreshHockey) August 28, 2023
The Red Wings blueline is not the focus of that image, but it shows how Lalonde prioritizes low-event hockey. Of course, the next step will be turning solid defence into offence, which is something that has helped the Tampa Bay Lightning, Lalonde’s past team, to postseason success.
Offensive Style of Derek Lalonde’s System
Watching your team play against the Lightning over the past few years has often been miserable, and the team’s forechecking is a major reason why. Tampa Bay has created chaos for opposing teams with how quickly they get to pucks in the offensive zone, which leads to better scoring chances and more ways for each player’s offence to shine. The mix of low-event and forechecking showed with the dump-and-chase tactics that the Red Wings used in Derek Lalonde’s system last year. Dump and chase isn’t always fun to watch, but it did see the Red Wings improve their offence last year, and it could help new players like Alex DeBrincat find more scoring opportunities.
How a Deeper Roster Helps Implement the System
Depth provides all sorts of advantages and one of the main ones is that you can trust the bottom six lines against the top six of other teams. It’s easier to trust a player like J.T. Compher against top lines than it is a player like Pius Suter. This allows for better matchups for the Red Wings top six, including more offensive zone time that should, hypothetically, lead to more goals. Adding players like Klim Kostin, Compher, and Daniel Sprong makes driving the team’s offence easier for Alex DeBrincat, Lucas Raymond, and Dylan Larkin.
Predicting Derek Lalonde’s System for 2023-24
An improved roster and more experience in Lalonde’s system should see the Red Wings continue to grow as a team. The coach is sure to continue to focus on the right offensive zone habits as he does in this clip about Steven Stamkos.
For all my Red Wings fans out there…
New Head Coach Derek Lalonde spoke at our Hockey Think Tank conference a few years ago on coaching the best players in the world. He was awesome. Here he talks about Steven Stamkos‘ gritty habits leading to his offence.
— Topher Scott (@HockeyThinkTank) July 1, 2022
Of course, that doesn’t have to mean dump-and-chase hockey, especially with the Red Wings having more skilled puck carriers than last year. The focus is sure to remain on keeping the puck out of their own net, but expect more free-flowing offence and creativity this year in Derek Lalonde’s system.
Main Photo Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports