Tampa Bay is no longer Melrose’s place

A coaching change that occurred over the weekend that made me scratch my head. The Tampa Bay Lightning fired Barry Melrose after only four months on the job and replaced him on an interim basis with Rick Tocchet.

Last summer, the franchise was purchased by a Hollywood movie management group last summer that gained success by producing the Saw franchise. Their main acquisition of the off-season was hiring Melrose to lead the team back into Stanley Cup contention, but the Lightning have been plagued by inconsistent and lackluster play all season.

In his press release, Lightning general manager Brian Lawton felt a coaching change was needed due to concerns about what direction the team was headed under Melrose. The team is built with an explosive offense featuring high-scoring forwards but have netted a league-worst 33 goals thus far this season and are currently floundering in 13th place of a 15-team Eastern Conference. Also, Lawton was displeased with the lack of playing time given to the league’s 2008 #1-overall draft choice Steven Stamkos, who was averaging a little over 11 minutes of ice-time under Melrose and was recently taken off the power-play unit. Still, to be judged after 16 games is a harsh reality for a new coach, as Melrose had to implement a new system and integrate 14 new players into the lineup.

Tocchet is a former NHL player with over 400 goals and a well-respected assistant coach with prior stops in Colorado and Phoenix. Lawton praised his approach to teaching hockey in a very structured and organized manner. But Tocchet does come with some baggage; he pleaded guilty to running a sports gambling ring in 2007.

Lawton wants to meet with the players to give them a direct explanation on the coaching change and discuss the future direction of the team’s management group.

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