NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Lane Lambert was among a group of hockey heavyweights drafted by the Red Wings in 1983. Twenty-one picks before him, Detroit selected some scrawny kid from Cranbrook, British Columbia, who went on to do some pretty great things at the NHL level.
“It was exciting for sure,” said Lambert, now in his second season as an assistant coach with the Predators. “It was eye-opening a little bit, but they brought me along slowly in the first 25 games or so. I sat out a few times, but I was brought along with the thought that I was young and would evolve from there.”
Lambert’s career started as if he were fired from a cannon. He produced 20 goals and 15 assists in 73 games as a rookie before injuries took a toll. His playing days end in 1989 in Quebec.
Besides the 18-year-old Steve Yzerman, who was the fourth-overall draft pick that summer, the 19-year-old Lambert was the youngest player on the Red Wings’ roster in 1983-84.
“You had to realize that when the games started you were lined up across from guys that you had been watching for years and years,” Lambert said.
However, Lambert and his young teammates – which also included 19-year-old Murray Craven and 20-year-old Claude Loiselle – did something special things that season, becoming the first time in the Ilitch-owned era to qualify for the Stanley Cup playoffs. It was just the second time in 14 years that Detroit had played beyond the regular-season.
With the Wings, Lambert played in two postseasons with one victory in seven playoff games as Detroit was served opening round series losses to St. Louis in 1984 and Chicago a year later. Despite the early exits, the group had paved the way for the franchises future success, which still lives as the current squad is trying to reach the postseason for the 22nd consecutive season.
“Certainly the culture and the mindset around the hockey team with Jimmy Devellano coming in changed and that’s when the team’s upswing really started,” Lambert said. “It was the start of it all and that year was a big step for us to be involved in the playoffs. Unfortunately, the game that eliminated us was on an overtime winning goal, but we did make some strides there and some of those lessons that we learned then certainly benefited our team as the future went on.”
For 21 seasons and counting.
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