TAMPA — Head coach Jon Cooper said after the Lightning’s Stanley Cup loss to the Avalanche that his coaching staff is the “heartbeat” of the organization and stands together in both victory and defeat.
It was a testament to how close the group has grown over the past three seasons, which included three Stanley Cup final appearances and two titles.
The staff got a bit thinner Thursday, when assistant Derek Lalonde was hired as the Red Wings’ 28th head coach. It is Lalonde‘s first head-coaching opportunity in the NHL.
Lalonde, hired by the Lightning in 2018-19, was second in command to Cooper and filled in as head coach after Cooper was ejected from a game in early March.
“I’m thrilled to be named head coach of the Red Wings,” Lalonde in a news release. “I’d like to thank (owner) Chris Ilitch and the entire Ilitch family, as well as (general manager) Steve Yzerman and the Red Wings management team for entrusting me with the opportunity to lead this historic franchise. I’m ready to get to work with our group. There’s a very bright future ahead in Detroit.”
Lalonde, 49, was in Detroit Tuesday to meet with Yzerman (who preceded Julien BriseBois as the Lightning’s general manager) regarding the head-coaching vacancy, ESPN’s Kevin Weekes reported Wednesday.
“I’m very pleased to announce Derek as our new head coach,” Yzerman said in a release. “He has proven himself as an excellent coach at every level and has spent the last four seasons in the National Hockey League as part of a very successful program in Tampa Bay. We feel he is ready to take the next step in his career as the head coach of the Detroit Red Wings.”
BriseBois acknowledged on Tuesday that other organizations had reached out to the Lightning regarding interviewing some members of their coaching staff.
Lalonde replaces Jeff Blashill, who did not have the team option on his contract picked up after seven seasons.
“When we win, we get calls from other organizations,” BriseBois said. “I used to say this to our (AHL Syracuse) Crunch players and staff all the time when I was general manager of our AHL team: When we win, we all look better, and people want players and staff members of winning teams. When we don’t win, we’re just as good a staff and as players, but nobody wants us and nobody’s making the calls.“
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