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Lightning Cancel Melrose Place

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nhl g melrose01 600 300x200Barry Melrose has been fired by the Tampa Bay Lightning, just 16 games into the season. The former coach of Wayne Gretzky, analyst for ESPN, and proud mullethead was just named Head Coach during the off season and now his tenure is over. It appears the new ownership group of the Lightning may need to call Daniel Snyder and George Steinbrenner to get some lessons in patience.

From TSN.ca:

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“This was a tough decision to make,” Executive Vice President & General Manager Brian Lawton said. “Barry is a good man and we have a great deal of respect for him. We wish him nothing but success. However, the results were unacceptable and the players have to understand that we need to be better. Hopefully this change helps push them.”

Owners Len Barrie and Oren Koules were guests on Off The Record in late October and when asked by host Michael Landsberg if the coach was safe, Koules was clear and concise. ”Very safe,” he said.

So “very safe” is a relative term I suppose. Maybe that is why they call the show, “Off the Record.”

ESPN has more on the events that may have led to the firing:

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Perhaps Tuesday’s events were an omen for Friday’s result. According to the St. Petersburg Times, Melrose held a meeting with the players, then left and had Tocchet run practice. According to the Times, Melrose said the meeting was “an airing from my point of view,” after the Lightning had had terrible starts in two games.

barrymelrose02 195x300“It wasn’t a meeting to embarrass people,” Melrose said Wednesday, according to the Times. “It was a meeting [to say], ‘This is where I see us after 14 games.’ These are the guys I think are buying into what I’m selling. These are the guys who have got to buy into what I’m selling.” As for leaving the practice in the hands of Tocchet, Melrose called it a way to give the players “a break.”

“Sometimes guys get tired of hearing him and he gets tired of hearing them,” Tocchet said, according to the Times. “Every coach does that. You need a break, have to get away from the team for a second. I honestly don’t think it’s that big a deal. It really isn’t.”

“He was not let go because [he let Tocchet run practice],” the general manager said, adding it was a culmination of things that had been building since the start of the season, and possibly before.

Melrose won just 5 of the first 16 games, and will be replaced by Rick Tocchet. Yep, that Rick Tocchet. According to Wikipedia:

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On February 6, 2006, Tocchet was served with a criminal complaint, accused of financing a nationwide sports gambling ring based in New Jersey in which several current NHL players wagered. He was expected to travel from his Arizona home to answer charges of promoting gambling, money laundering and conspiracy in New Jersey. “It’s not a hockey-related issue, it’s a football thing. And at this time I can’t comment any further,” Tocchet told The Arizona Republic after the Coyotes practiced Tuesday, February 7, 2006.

On May 25, 2007, Tocchet plead guilty to conspiracy and promoting gambling. New Jersey Attorney General Anne Milgram announced on August 17 that Tocchet has been sentenced to two years probation in exchange for his plea. The NHL issued a statement from Gary Bettman, but his spokesman would not answer questions, including if Tocchet had a future in hockey.

So I guess the answer was yes, he did have a future in hockey, as he is now the interim coach of the Tampa Bay Lightning.

ESPN has more on Tocchet:

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Tocchet’s coaching career was interrupted by his involvement in a gambling investigation. He rejoined Phoenix’s coaching staff in February 2008 after a two-year absence that included a suspension by NHL commissioner Gary Bettman. Deputy commissioner Bill Daly said in an e-mail to The Associated Press that the league is not concerned about Tocchet’s promotion. “Rick is still bound by the terms of his reinstatement,” Daly said. “If he’s qualified to be an assistant coach on those terms, in our view, he’s just as qualified to be a head coach.”

From my perspective, I hope this means the end of the ESPN, Barry Melrose love fest. I quickly grew tired of ESPN kissing up to their former analyst, and being excited to see him back on the bench. I love John Buccigross, but he was turning into John Buttikiss. I am sure we will see mullethead back on the set of SportsCeneter shortly.

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