Creating a rivalry
Let's, for the sake of argument, say that John Tortorella ends up with the Thrashers. Like I said before, based on media reports out of Atlanta, he doesn't seem to be the top of the list, but that doesn't mean he's off it. And you could read Atlanta's request to interview Lightning assistant Mike Sullvan two ways. He could be sought as the head coach. He has a great relationship with Thrashers GM Don Waddell through USA Hockey, and there is scuttlebutt that one reason Waddell did not name a full-time coach during the season was he was waiting for Sullivan. Or Sullivan could be considered as an assistant to Tortorella. As Sullivan said last week, "I want to be a head coach, but absent that opportunity, there's no one I'd rather work with than Torts."
Even so, no one really knows what the Lightning's coaching situation will look like after Barry Melrose is named. Tampa Bay has asked to speak to Phoenix assistant Rick Tocchet, but perhaps Sullivan stays with Tampa Bay. He loves it here and it might serve Melrose well to have someone on his staff who really knows the team. And remember, Torts' preference was to work with one assistant. Most teams have two.
But what if Torts is hired by the Thrashers as their coach and brings Sullivan along for the ride? Does that, all of a sudden, push the Lightning and Thrashers into a rivalry?
It has been extremely difficult for the Southeast division to create the rivalries hoped for when the league went to eight intra-division games. Let's face it, no one in Tampa really cares about the Thrashers, Hurricanes, Capitals or Panthers, for that matter. And it won't really change until the teams get involved in a heated division title chase or a playoff series.
But couldn't looking at Tortorella and Sullivan on the other bench do it? You know Torts would be seething to stuff it down the Lightning's throat. And wouldn't it be fun to hear Torts tell Melrose to shut his yap?
Who knows, maybe it makes no difference. Perhaps it is as boring as ever when the Thrashers and Lightning play. But it's fun to think about.