Evaluating Barry Melrose
Personally, I think it is misguided to believe a coach should be judged after 10 games. I think it is shortsighted to believe that given all the extenuating circumstances we know about and the way training camp and the October schedule worked against this team, that the team's performance has been solely the responsibility of the coach. And if we're going to go there, 3-3-3 in October wasn't too bad, I say.
Yes, the buck stops with him and all that. But can we at least wait and see what things look like by mid December before we try to determine what kind of job the coach is doing? That's 25 to 30 games and that, to me, seems like a reasonable place to start making some determinations about the direction the team has taken.
Either way, the honeymoon has been short for coach Barry Melrose, hasn't it? To his credit, he spoke pretty candidly about the timetable he believes he is on. As he said in the paper today, owners Oren Koules and Len Barrie have made it clear they expect results and Melrose doesn't believe he will have a full season if the results don't come quick enough.
Here, to me, are the best ways to judge a coach in this situation:
Is the team getting better? Seems like the Lightning is getting better. Two huge road wins against the Maple Leafs and Sabres prove it. As left wing Mark Recchi said, "The guys better know their roles now and understand what it's going to take for us to be a good team, and a lot of that has to do with him. "Has everyone done the right things? No. We haven't as players. But he cares. He's passionate about it and wants us to do the right things."
Is the team playing hard? Don't think you can argue that point. And when the effort was not there, Melrose made sure the players understood there would be consequences. Ultimately, effort comes from a player, and certainly there was pressure applied in the locker room, but Melrose sent a message and the players accepted it.
Look, anything can happen. The bottom could drop out starting tonight, and then the dynamic changes. And can stuff happen behind the scenes that has nothing to do with the on-ice product that can affect a coach's job? Sure. But, for now, I say let's see what Melrose can do when the team has had time to come together some and is playing a regular schedule.
Like I said, 25 to 30 games sounds right to me. Then, I think, we can better judge.
From the morning skate: Mike Smith, who is scheduled to start in goal, left the ice for several minutes after taking a shot off his thumb and forefinger of his right hand. He returned to the skate and Melrose said he believes Smith is fine and will play tonight against the Senators. ... Ryan Craig (groin) is off injured reserve and will play tonight. It is his first game since Nov. 10, 2007. The forward, who skated this morning on right wing with Chris Gratton and Gary Roberts was sidelined by back and knee problems last season. ... Scratched for tonight are forwards Matt Pettinger and Jason Ward and defenseman Janne Niskala. ... Defenseman Andrej Meszaros plays his first game against his former team. ... Filip Kuba returns to Tampa tied for the league lead among with 11 points, eight on the power play. ... Senators coach Craig Hartsburg, who as coach of OHL Sault Ste. Marie, saw Steven Stamkos play for Sarnia, said, "Steven is a really gifted player, with speed and skill and he plays the game hard. He's going to be a top player in this league. It just takes all players time to find their game at this level."