The case for Tortorella to stay
Total speculation here but I am just not convinced, as are so many readers, that John Tortorella is finished as the Lightning's coach. In fact, a dispassionate view seems to indicate he and the coaching staff will be back, at least to start next season.
Before everybody gets all nuts, hear me out.
Let's start with the scenario that either Palace Sports & Entertainment or Oren Koules owns the team at the start of next season. If anyone else gets involved, say, if Koules' bid falls through (and we know how tough it must be to get financing in the current worldwide credit crunch), then all bets are off.
So, consider that if budget-challenged Palace Sports still owns the team, there is little incentive for it to pay Tortorella $1.3-million not to coach next season's squad while paying another coach to take his place. Sure there are offsets in Tortorella's contract, meaning if he gets another job, Palace Sports would be on the hook for much less than the $1.3-million. But does the group that claims it has lost about $80-million on its Tampa operation want to take that chance, especially if it is going to do anything to try to improve the team over the summer? I could be wrong, but even though Tortorella and CEO Tom Wilson don't get along, I think not. More likely is that Palace Sports does not extend the contracts of Tortorella or his coaches, all of which have a year left, and let's them twist during the season as lame ducks until they are either forced to extend them or fire them.
General manager Jay Feaster, who has three years left on his contract, by the way, refused in Thursday's story to say anything about contracts except, "Any discussion of extensions or new contracts, until there is resolution of the pending sale, is premature.''
As for Koules, an NHL novice, Tortorella is the winningest U.S.-born coach, with 235 victories, and a Stanley Cup winner who has been with the the team since 2000 and knows it like the back of his hand. And would Koules and his partners (Len Barrie, mostly) have allowed Tortorella to win the fight to sign Dan Boyle if he was not going to be brought back if Koules gained control of the team?
As for Torts quitting? Would you leave $1.3-million in the table? Besides, I'm sure he wants to see Prague (kidding).
So get used to the idea of Tortorella coming back. Things may change, of course. Koules may not get it done. Tortorella might say something even Wilson can't abide. But given the current lay of the land, I'd say bet even money Tortorella and his staff returns to start the 2008-09 season.
[Douglas R. Clifford, Times]