COACHING CHANGES TRANSACTIONS POWER POLL DEPTH CHARTS CURRENT ODDS
Dan Di Sciullo, NHL Editor
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
It took just 16 games for Tampa Bay general manager Brian Lawton to decide that he'd seen enough of Barry Melrose as the Lightning's head coach.
Now, I wasn't a fan of the hiring in the first place considering how much the game has changed since Melrose last was a head coach with Los Angeles in the mid-1990s, but it's hard to blame him for the Lightning's 5-7-4 start to the season.
The Bolts have been on a downhill trajectory since winning the franchise's first and only Stanley Cup in 2004, and, despite numerous personnel changes over the summer, they weren't picked by many to make the playoffs this year.
It's hard not to have sympathy for Melrose in this situation. The guy waited over 13 years to make his return to an NHL bench and only had about 20 percent of a regular season to prove he still had what it took to lead a team.
Now, I don't deny Lawton's assertion that he "philosophically" disagreed with Melrose's approach to coaching, but it's hard to sell that angle when you've barely let the guy get his feet wet in his new job.
The Lightning made matters worse by replacing Melrose with associate coach Rick Tocchet, who last garnered headlines for his involvement in a massive betting ring based in southern New Jersey.
Tocchet is taking over the team on an interim basis for the time being and will be an NHL head coach for the first time. This is a guy who spent two years in a league-imposed exile for making terrible decisions off the ice, and now he's tabbed with the task of getting this floundering franchise back on track? Again, a tough sell.
Obviously, Lawton never wanted Melrose as his head coach, but he should've at least given him a full season to try his hand at leading the Lightning, who are, after all, in a rebuilding process.
Tocchet may do better than Melrose with this team, but he'll also have more time to prove himself.
A rash decision such as this one could have long-lasting effects for a franchise. After all, if you were a free agent looking for a new team, it would be hard not to be hesitant about joining a club that can anoint Melrose as the new face of the organization over the summer, only to fire him less than two months into his first season.
The decision to hire Melrose may have been a poor decision, but firing him after such a brief tenure was much worse.