Moritz Seider is even better than Derek Lalonde expected


It's one thing to watch Moritz Seider, quite another to coach him. Take it from new Red Wings head coach Derek Lalonde, who's been so impressed with Seider in their short time together that he said the NHL's reigning Rookie of the Year has been even "better than expected."

"That’s the exact way to put it. You get an appreciation for a player playing against him and he was awesome whenever we played him," Lalonde said on the latest episode of the Spittin' Chiclets podcast. "But then when you get here, a little more athletic than I even thought, a little more skilled than I probably gave him credit for, but passion, man. He wants to be a player."

Lalonde saw Seider four times last season from the opposite bench while coaching for the Lightning. Tampa won three of the four games, but Seider posted five points and a plus-four rating while logging huge minutes for a rookie. Lalonde has been even more impressed watching Seider up close -- and getting to know what fuels him.

After the Wings lost a recent exhibition game despite playing well against a Penguins team with an NHL lineup, Lalonde said Seider was "absolutely dejected in the room."

"It just goes to show, he wants it. He wants to be great. He wants to win. He just has drive. Again, just getting to know him, but he feels like an absolute star in the making," said Lalonde. "He’s still young, there’s going to be some growth within his game, but man, he feels very, very special in what little I’ve seen so far."

The Red Wings open the season Friday night against Montreal. Asked about other players who've caught his eye so far, Lalonde mentioned forwards Lucas Raymond and Joe Veleno, veteran defenseman Ben Chiarot -- "His feet are way better than I thought and he’s got more skill" -- and youngsters Simon Edvinsson and Elmer Soderblom. The latter is a 6'8 forward and former sixth-round pick by Steve Yzerman who's slated to start the season in Detroit.

"I understand the excitement here," said Lalonde. "They’ve done a good job with their scouting, and that’s Steve. Of everything he’s great at as a manager, he’s an evaluator and he drafts really well. It’s heading in the right direction. So I’ve been very happy with what I’ve seen. I see the excitement from the typical Detroit fan of where this is going.

"Now, we still want to be realistic. 100 points got the playoffs last year. We were at 74. Teams don’t jump 26 points, I don’t care what you do."

It's a good reminder of the climb the Red Wings are facing in the East. The bar for playoff admission last season was indeed 100 points; the Wings were indeed 26 points shy. They're chasing four playoff teams in their own division in the Lightning, Panthers, Maple Leafs and Bruins. The Hurricanes, Rangers and Penguins look like locks in the other division. That leaves nine teams to fight for one wild card spot.

But Yzerman and the Wings did make significant upgrades to their roster in the offseason. And they believe they've made an upgrade behind the bench with Lalonde replacing Jeff Blashill (who then replaced Lalonde in Tampa). At the very least, the Red Wings should be playing meaningful games in the second half of the season. And with Yzerman leading the way, they'll elbow their way back into the playoffs eventually.

"Steve’s phenomenal," said Lalonde, who overlapped with Yzerman for one year in Tampa. "I can’t wait to work for him. He’s a patient GM, he’s smart. I felt the same way with (Lightning GM) Julien (BriseBois). These guys are just managers where they’re going to figure it out. They’re patient and it’s not easy, but it’s really exciting as a coach.

"These guys are smart, they’re good at what they do, and I’m confident he’ll get us in position to be successful in time."

Other highlights from Lalonde's interview:

On his first interview this offseason with Yzerman: "It was very private. We go into Detroit and we just had a meeting at the airport there. It felt like 90 minutes and I looked at my clock when we said goodbye … it was a six-hour interview that felt like 90 minutes. That’s where it went well. Steve called again the next day, we talked over some things and had it done the next morning."

On Yzerman's 'intimidation' factor: "Steve’s different. I did spend some time with him (in Tampa) so I got to know him a little bit, but Steve is intimidating. One, he just doesn’t say much. Two, he really has a presence about him. Three, he’s really smart. It’s like the kiss of death because you know he’s just judging you and he’s smart so he knows what’s going on."

On former Red Wings being part of the front office: "(Nicklas) Lidstrom is around, (Niklas) Kronwall is around, Kris Draper is around, Dan Cleary is around, (Kirk) Maltby has been around. These guys are money. One, the winning. Like, they scoff at my two Cups. Cleary doesn’t go a day without getting his balls busted for only winning one around here. But it’s just winning. There’s a swagger about them. They’ve won, they’ve done it and they’ve won a lot here. It’s great to be around and it’s good for our guys to see."

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Featured Image Photo Credit: Gregory Shamus / Staff