Barry Melrose was last behind an NHL bench for the 1994-95 season. (Photo by Noah Graham/Getty Images)
The Tampa Bay Lightning has hired Barry Melrose as head coach; brace yourself, this could really get ugly.
And considering it's the Lightning we're talking about here, that's saying something.
Apparently new owners Oren Koules and Len Barrie felt it was a good idea to replace a Stanley Cup winning coach with a guy who not only hasn't coached a game in the NHL for 13 years, but was one who had a mediocre .449 winning percentage in just three seasons of NHL experience in the first place.
Yup, that's got success written aaaaall over it, doesn't it?
I don't care how good a coach Melrose was when he was behind the bench for the Los Angeles Kings back when mullets were stylish. I don't care how much hockey he has watched and how closely he has been connected to the game through his job as an analyst for ESPN. The game has passed him by.
That's not an indictment of Melrose, it's just a plain fact.
Standing behind the bench for two games as a celebrity coach for the Adirondack Frostbite – whatever the hell that is – hardly qualifies Melrose to be in tune with the modern NHL player.
And if memory serves, Melrose was never real big on the technical side of the game in the first place. That might have been all right then, but in case the Lightning hasn't noticed, the game has been taken over by coaching and the ability to map out an effective strategy is key to success in today's NHL, particularly with a team that is as bereft of legitimate NHL talent as the Lightning.
Rick Tocchet, whose contract with the Phoenix Coyotes is set to expire and will reportedly join the Lightning, is perhaps the one ray of hope being added to the Tampa coaching staff. Despite his checkered past, Tocchet was well liked by his players in Phoenix and established himself as a capable right hand man.
Which brings me to my next point. If the Lightning is hiring a whole new coaching staff, why isn't GM Jay Feaster looking down the barrel of a pink slip, as well?
It wasn't the previous coach, John Tortorella, whose mismanagement of the salary cap should be required reading for any prospective NHL GM. It wasn't Tortorella who drafted so badly there were virtually no NHL-ready players in the organization to fill the deep holes. It wasn't Tortorella who tied enormous amounts of money into three players, was forced to get rid of one of them, then exacerbated the problem by signing veteran defenseman Dan Boyle to a five-year contract extension worth $6.7 million per season.
It seems Tortorella's biggest sin is he refused to cater to the millionaires. No problem, Melrose will likely do that and, ahem, sell lots of tickets with some catchy quotes and acts of notoriety.
Get ready Tampa fans, the few of you who remain. Look at the bright side. You're getting Steven Stamkos next season, potentially either John Tavares or Victor Hedman in 2009 and maybe even John McFarland or Cam Fowler in 2010.
This article orginally ran May 31, shortly after Melrose was rumored to replace John Tortorella.
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