Monday, November 17, 2008

Signs of Life but still a Loss for Bolts, Melrose whines to HNIC

By JC De La Torre

While former head coach Barry Melrose whined to Hockey Night in Canada, the Tampa Bay Lightning definitely looked feisty and more passionate in the debut of new interim Head Coach Rick Tocchet, unfortunately, the results were the same as Tampa Bay fell to the Carolina Hurricanes 3-2 in a shootout. Tocchet's shorter shifts and reuniting of the MVP (Marty, Vinny, Prospal) line allowed for more scoring chances and kept the Bolts fresh for the 3rd period where they outshot Carolina 8-1, a dramatic turnaround from previous third period performances.

Tampa Bay's scorers were frustrated with their inability to convert on their scoring chances. Three Lightning shots hit goalposts and they were 1-for-6 on the power play including a 4-on-3 power play in overtime in which they had a man advantage for nearly two minutes.

"You get a 4-on-3, you need to score a goal, because then it can to a shootout, and then who knows," Martin St. Louis told the Associated Press, "I take full responsibility. I'm the guy that's out there, and I've got to get the job done, and I didn't."

Tampa Bay jumped to a 2-0 with a goal in the 1st by St. Louis and a power play goal in the 2nd period by Vincent Lecavalier. Carolina came to life in the second half of the 2nd period, getting goals from Wade Brookbank and Rod Brind'Amour. After a scoreless third period and overtime - the game went to a shoot out where Carolina shooters Tuomo Ruutu and Rod Brind'Amour scored on their attempts but Vincent Lecavalier was stoned and Jussi Jokinen hit the post to end it in favor of the Hurricanes.

"It's a step in the right direction," Tocchet said, "I thought the guys played well, I think they're really starting to get what we're trying to do here."

Meanwhile, former Head Coach Barry Melrose did the whine and cheese circuit over the weekend, getting interviewed by Hockey Night in Canada where he complained about the Lightning players not wanting to play for him and controlling the power in the organization.

According to an article in the St. Petersburg Times, Melrose told HNIC, "I think the players didn't want to play for me. I'm not a guy who sings Kumbaya around the fire. I'll let you know if I'm not happy with you.

"And obviously, a lot of guys didn't like to be held accountable with this team, and obviously, they went to (owners) Oren (Koules) and Len (Barrie) and said they don't like this style of coaching and 'would you get rid of him.' I don't think there was any secret about that."

True enough, there are rumors to that effect, which we discussed last week when we covered the dismissal of Melrose. But Melrose took it to the extreme, stating "the players have the power in the organization" and that they "exercised that power" with his firing.

"Now they can play who they want and how much they want and when they want and (not) demand a lot of them," he said. "Everybody's happy in Tampa right now."

This has not been mentioned in the rumors behind the termination of Melrose. While the players, it appears, definitely went to management asking for Melrose's head - its ultimately the owners Koules and Barry as well as Brian Lawton who ultimately made that call. I don't think there's any doubt who's in charge of the hockey organization and its not the players - as evidenced by the revolving door at the St. Pete Times forum.

For the record, Koules texted the St. Pete Times stating that Melrose comments were "absolutely not true".

So while one overmatched coach whines on National Television, there were glimmers of hope that the Lightning in the Tocchet era could be much more passionate and competitive than they were under Melrose. Now if only they'd stop hitting goalposts...

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