Around this time last year, new Detroit Red Wings head coach Derek Lalonde was still getting to know his players and coaching staff while preparing to oversee his first-ever NHL training camp.

Lalonde has experienced a lot since then.

In 2022-23, his first season behind the bench in Detroit, Lalonde guided the Red Wings to a 35-37-10 (80 points) record, the club’s best finish since last making the Stanley Cup Playoffs in 2015-16.

He helped establish a fresh culture in the Red Wings’ dressing room with his approach, which is based on relationship-building and accountability. And perhaps most importantly, Lalonde challenged his players to reach a higher standard.

“We wanted to push and make a step last year,” Lalonde told “We did that. Again, not where we want to be or need to be, but we just want to keep pushing this in the right direction. It starts in Traverse (City).”

As Lalonde readies for this year’s camp, which will kick off Thursday at Centre Ice Arena, the 51-year-old coach said continuity will bode well for he and the Red Wings.

“Anything new takes a little bit of time,” Lalonde said. “But we feel a lot more comfortable with where we’re gonna start this year over last year.”

Upon being hired as head coach in June 2022, Lalonde highlighted several areas he wanted Detroit to improve upon during his first campaign behind the bench. After reflecting on last season, Lalonde said the Red Wings made strides in several categories, especially team defense.

“Overall goals and chances against, our penalty-kill percentage, all improved,” Lalonde said. “That is a good sign and a step forward, but nowhere near good enough or where we want to be. Those will be similar goals going into this year, to try to take another step.”

The Red Wings even held the Eastern Conference’s second wild card spot after defeating the New York Rangers, 4-1, on Feb. 23. It was the first time since 2015-16 that Detroit occupied a playoff spot that late in a campaign.

Lalonde said he could feel the excitement when the Red Wings played meaningful games down the stretch last season, as those moments served as a reminder of the organization’s loyal fans.

“You always appreciate the Red Wings fanbase,” Lalonde said. “We always got a taste of it a couple times per year when Detroit would play in Tampa (Bay). I probably didn’t realize how passionate and significant it was, night in and night out, at home and even on the road. Especially when we had that little push there flirting with that playoff line.”

To ensure a continuation of the improvement Detroit made last season, the new and returning Red Wings players must be self-motivated to get better, according to Lalonde.

“We need a little bit from everyone,” Lalonde said. “We need a little bit more from the young guys, just natural positive growth throughout the year. It just feels like there is a little more depth and there will be a little more competition in camp.”

Lalonde said he experienced growth as a head coach last season and believes coming in with a year on the job under his belt will make a big difference.  

“You’re in a few more uncomfortable positions (as head coach),” he said. “I probably appreciate my seven years as a head coach in the USHL, ECHL and AHL as much as being an assistant in the league for preparing me. It is different when you’re the head coach and running the show, especially at this level. There were some growth and experience to that.”