Abel to Yzerman

Abel to Yzerman

All Derek Lalonde

12/14/2022 at 9:13am EST

The NHL’s grind shows little mercy, but amid the chaos, Lalonde sat down with Sean Gentille and Max Bultman for an episode of “The Athletic Hockey Show” to talk about the team’s (possibly ahead-of-schedule) progress, the ups and downs of developing young stars, and much more. Here are some of the highlights.

We’ve talked about the various moments this year where it’s maybe looked ahead of schedule, and then you have some nights where it looks like maybe what some people expected. Have you gotten to a place where you feel like maybe this is a little ahead of schedule, of what you thought when you took the job?

I’ve cautioned my guys about living in the moment, and I’ve done a good job of doing it for myself and my staff also, but yeah, this feels ahead of schedule. But you get your moments of reality. Until beating Tampa and taking a point in Dallas, we have struggled against the elite lately, and not play-wise, just finding ways to win. I just think the margin of error is even more thin when you play those elite teams. But with that said, I like where we’re at as a group. I know I keep getting the playoff question time and time (again), and that’s good — we want to get questions like that because that means we’re at least in the conversation.

But when I talk about being realistic, a little bit is ourselves as a team, I want to be realistic, but it’s also our conference. And I’ve stated that from Day 1. I believe we have the 11th (best) win percentage in the league right now, and we’re outside the playoffs. And that’s no knock on us or our guys, it’s almost a credit of where the Eastern Conference is and how deep it is. If we were in the West, maybe we’d have a little bit different conversation, but we went 2-1-1 on this road trip and we lost ground.

And so I just want to be cautious on where we’re at, kind of keep it in the moment, because I still think there’s going to be some rough roads. We talk about all the forward injuries we’ve had, but knock on wood, we’ve been very lucky (with) not having many injuries, few if any, on “D,” and our goaltending’s been healthy. So still want to be cautious. We have a long ways to go, just looking to be more consistent and stay consistent as a team.

When you moved here (to Detroit), you chose to live downtown. How has that shaped your first few months in the city, how you’ve gotten to know the city?

It’s been phenomenal. Not ideal because I’m not with my family — we kind of had a pact with family, long ago when you go down this coaching path, we’d always stay together. And we did that through our moves from Toledo to Des Moines to Tampa. Here, just, it was not realistic. School started literally Aug. 3 in Tampa, and we tried for about 40 minutes to put everything in motion and it was the most stressful 40 minutes of my life.

I remember, Jeff Blashill driving to Tampa, he brought the whole family and he was going through hell week of getting kids in school, getting their minor hockey (figured out), and he’s like, “Newsy, you’re the smartest guy I’ve ever met.” So not ideal (that they’re not here). They’re going to make the move, we’ll do the suburb thing next year with the family.

But it was an easy decision to live downtown, and it’s more than I expected. It’s been phenomenal. Half our staff lives downtown. … It’s been awesome, it’s opened my eyes to how great this city is. It’s been a great experience.

much more ($)

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