Barry Melrose Fired, Replaced By Felon Tocchet

Well, I guess the Tampa Bay Lightning are disappointed in ESPN’s hockey coverage this year, too, because they’ve decided to kick coach Barry Melrose to the curb after just 16 games. The ‘Ning are off to a 5-7-4 start, which isn’t very good but also not necessarily enough time to really know that Barry’s going to be a failure.

Barry Melrose

Even worse, the team has decided to promote convicted gambling promoter Rick Tocchet to interim head coach. Ouch, Barry. First, you leave that cushy TV job where you get to show off that mullet every night and bring joy to the world with your pronunciations of “ay-gaynst” and “organ-eye-zation,” and now the team thinks it’s better off with a criminal coaching the team.

Although it looks like a quick trigger, there were hints that all was not well with the team throughout the first month of the season. Some feel that the game has passed Melrose by a little, and that some of his motivational techniques that worked in the early ’90s don’t fly anymore.

CBS SPORTS’ Wes Goldstein ran a story on Wednesday saying that while Melrose has had a rough go so far, things were still looking up:

…all things considered, the Lightning are in pretty decent shape at this point, having recovered from a slow start that included a tough trip to Europe, and sticking with the pack for playoff spots. No wonder Melrose was all smiles for an interview, and certainly more relaxed than someone should have been after taking only a couple of hours off.

Goldstein, though, pointed to an incident that was perhaps seen as the final straw in a series of “motivational” moves that seemed to alienate his players rather than bring them together. From TAMPABAY.COM on Tuesday:

Apparently, Melrose called a meeting with the players, who were dressing for practice at the BankAtlantic Center and addressed two straight games of terrible first periods, and especially Monday night’s effort that saw Tampa Bay fall behind 3-0 to the Capitals in what turned into a 4-2 loss.

Goaltender Olie Kolzig said Melrose gave the players “a good scolding,” and decided to skip practice to give everyone a break.

The players didn’t get to skip practice — just Barry.

My guess is that the move was made because of these incidents that increaseted tension between the players and Melrose. On the ice, he was dealing with resurrecting a last-place team that only returned half of its roster from last season, so he should’ve been given time to get things off the ground with such a new group.

As for Tocchet, well, so much for it being a bad thing to be a criminal. I’m all for giving people second chances, but maybe we could’ve at least waited a couple of years. I don’t even know if his probation is over yet. I know that his transgressions aren’t that big of a deal (who doesn’t love illegal gambling?), but it just looks like the guy is getting a break because he’s in sports. Although, maybe coaching the Lightning is worse than being ostracized by the league.

Of course, everyone is now wondering if ESPN will welcome Barry back with open arms. I assume they will, and we can just forget that all of this ever happened. Matthew Barnaby’s going to show up to work tomorrow and be told that he’s moving down to Storage B, if his keycard even still works at all.