TOLEDO, OH – June 2, 2014, the Toledo Walleye hired Derek Lalonde to be their new head coach. The former USHL coach with the Green Bay Gamblers compiled an impressive record of 114-26-12 and won championship with them in 2012.
At the time, the Walleye was a franchise in need of something. They were coming off a miserable 21-44-7 record during the 2013-14 campaign and only two playoff appearance in four years under coach Nick Vitucci. After two highly successful seasons with Lalonde under the helm and many milestones with Toledo, it was announced Saturday Lalonde took an AHL job with the Iowa Wild.
Lalonde was able to put together so much talent with superstar goalie Jeff Lerg or forwards Tyler Barnes, A.J Jenks, Shane Berschbach and Kyle Bonis. In first year, he led the Walleye to 50 wins after only 21 in 2014; an ECHL improvement record. He basically changed the culture for Toledo hockey through he was only around two years. Lalonde had a incredible regular season record of 97-35-7 during his two years. Attendance went up from 6,022 in Vitucci’s last season, to 6,982 last season. But with the success, came many interesting storylines. He was often criticized by the Toledo fanbase for not putting together physical teams, despite having an uptempo game with structure and discipline. Fans will contend Lalonde always had questionable guys on his teams from defenseman like Joe Sova, Jared Nightingale or forward Mike Leone.
Every playoff series he had in the ECHL, Lalonde’s teams always found themselves in a long series. He only had a record of 14-14 in the Kelly Cup Playoffs through his two seasons. In 2015, the Walleye played three game 7’s against the Wheeling Nailers, Fort Wayne Komets and the South Carolina Stingrays. The Walleye went 2-1 in those games.
In this year’s Kelly Cup Playoffs, Toledo faced the 8th seeded Reading Royals. The Royals’ AHL affiliate sent down many of their two-way players to Reading toward the end of the regular season. The end result was another hard-fought 7-game series, which ended in a Walleye defeat.
Even with his faults, it seemed Lalonde’s star was on the rise to the AHL. He did too much for the Walleye during his two years that it seemed unlikely a team wasn’t going to be interested.
“From the first time I visited, Toledo has embraced my family and me. I am extremely proud of what we were able to accomplish in two years with the support of the Walleye staff, my coaching team, the players and the incredible Walleye fans,” Lalonde said in a press release.
Toledo Walleye President and CEO Joe Napoli, “Derek Lalonde is a fine coach and an even better person and mentor. We brought Derek in to build great things in Toledo, a culture of success, and he did that. He helped reshape the Walleye program; Iowa is fortunate to have him.”
Now, the search will begin for who will be the Walleye next coach. The odds on favorite seems to be Walleye Associate Head Coach Dan Watson, but the team may look at the junior or college ranks for Lalonde’s replacement. One would think the team will have a replacement very soon.
One thing is for sure, Lalonde surely made an impact in Toledo. His effect of leaving Toledo remains to be seen.
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