Sunday, November 16, 2008

A not so sweet Sixteen


"I was Frank Sinatra ... I did it my way,"-- now former Tampa Bay Lightning head coach Barry Melrose, offering up a synopsis of his short stay in Florida.
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Barry Melrose lasted but sixteen games in his return behind the bench in the NHL.

The odds on favourite one month ago to be the next to follow Denis Savard onto the unemployment lines, hit the mark almost one month to the day that Savard was fired from his job in Chicago.

Melrose becomes the second coach so far to be jettisoned over the side from a non-performing squad. He had left the relative comfort of an ESPN studio to make a return to the coaching ranks, but as the first month of the season morphed into the second, it seemed that his players were inclined to change the channel.

General Manager Brian Lawton said all the usual things at a time such as this, disappointed, players need to take responsibility and all the other clich├ęs that come to pass when a coach is let go. But perhaps the seeds of this dismissal were planted months before the season started.

The Lightning have been a rather confused operation in the last few months, ownership concerns played on through the summer finally resolved to a fashion prior to the start of the season.

The actual hiring of Melrose was questioned at the time, with many observers wondering why the Lightning were reaching into the TV studios and taking on a coach who had last been behind a bench after a thirteen year absence.

His replacement of John Tortorella (who has pulled up in a TV studio for the short term) wasn’t particularly well received in Tampa, or at least by those in Tampa that follow hockey and apparently did not resonate too well in the Lightning dressing room as exhibited by the results, or lack of on the ice.

Also causing confusion no doubt are the still circulating rumours of the owners moving into the dressing room at times to offer “advice” to the players on how to approach the game. That is a tale which if true wouldn’t do much to build up Melrose’s rapport with the players, nor have been proven to be particularly useful to the end result.

The Lightning with a record of 5-7-5, are currently among the worst teams in the NHL, but two points away from holding the bottom end of the NHL standings. The record so far is a litany of woe, that doesn’t particularly bode well for Rich Tocchet’s new task of turning things around as interim head coach.

It all makes for a situation that usually results in the firing of a coach, it’s also a record that means a few folks need to look in a mirror, players and management, all it seems are the authors of the mess that has become Tampa Bay.
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For Melrose, Sinatra fan that he is, as he exits stage left, perhaps another of Francis Albert's musical interludes would fit nicely here, from September song:
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Oh, the days dwindle down to a precious few
September, november
And these few precious days I’ll spend with you
These precious days I’ll spend with you

Globe and Mail-- Lightning fire Melrose

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