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Former Walleye head coach Derek Lalonde named head coach of Detroit Red Wings

Red Wings executive vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman announced that Tampa Bay Lightning assistant coach Derek Lalonde will take over in Detroit.

DETROIT — The Detroit Red Wings have named a new head coach and he's a familiar face.

Red Wings executive vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman announced Thursday that the 28th head coach in franchise history will be Derek Lalonde.

Lalonde isn't new to the organization. His first professional coaching job was with the Toledo Walleye, where he turned the franchise around after taking over for Nick Vitucci, who stepped down during the worst season in team history. 

In the first season under Lalonde, the Walleye went 50-15-5-2 and fell in the conference finals. It was a 58-point improvement over the prior season.

Lalonde was named 2015 ECHL Head Coach of the Year and the franchise captured the Brabham Cup for the first time with the best regular-season record.

Credit: WTOL 11
Walleye head coach Derek Lalonde shakes hands with Reading Royals players after Toledo's loss in the 2015-16 Kelly Cup Playoffs.

Following two seasons in Toledo and amassing a 97-35-7-5 record, Lalonde moved up and became head coach of the Iowa Wild in the American Hockey League.

Current Walleye head coach Dan Watson served as an assistant under Lalonde and took over after Lalonde left. "People respect him, people trust him, people believe exactly what he's saying," Watson said. "He knows what he's doing, I think everyone can see that."

After two seasons in Iowa, Tampa Bay came calling. Yzerman, who was the Lightning's general manager at the time, hired Lalonde as an assistant coach under head coach Jon Cooper. Yzerman would depart the organization not long after to return to Detroit, where he soon became general manager.

Lalonde would go on to win back-to-back Stanley Cups with the Tampa Bay Lightning, who made the finals a third-straight time this season but lost to the Colorado Avalanche.

With the Lightning's three-peat hopes dashed Sunday, Detroit was free to interview Lalonde for the job this week. 

"I'm very pleased to announce Derek as our new head coach," Yzerman said in a press 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."

This is Lalonde's first permanent NHL head coaching job, but he's undefeated at the NHL level after going 2-0 as interim Lightning head coach while Cooper was on COVID-19 protocol in December.

"There's a few things inside the locker room that I still use and take to this day that I learned from him which has helped myself grow," Watson said. "Look where it's gotten him now: a couple Stanley Cups, three trips to the Stanley Cup Finals in a row and now, finally for him, a head coaching job. Again, he's a special human with great communication skills."

Lalonde replaces longtime head coach Jeff Blashill, who took over for Mike Babcock in 2015 and was not retained following the end of Detroit's season.

"I'm thrilled to be named head coach of the Red Wings," Lalonde said. "I'm ready to get to work with our group. There's a very bright future ahead in Detroit."

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