Melrose: "I'm going to move on"
First, let me thank those of you who e-mailed to inquire where I was over the weekend. I know there was a lot of news going on but the weekend was a long-planned break and my first days off since Aug. 31, and I thought Joe Smith kept everyone up to date.
Now, it's time to wrap up this Barry Melrose thing. Talked to him today and he reiterated what he has said during the weekend, that he believes the players revolted against him, though he said he would not name the players he believed were involved. That was a little disappointing, I have to say. Not that I want to start a he-said, she-said, but I just think if you're going to make an accusation like that, you should say to whom you are referring.
Instead, Melrose, who said he is going to be back in broadcasting "pretty quick," offered this when asked if he could say to whom he was referring:
"Nah, I don't think so. I'm done with it now. It's water under the bridge. I'm going to move on with what's going on."
For what it's worth, both Marty St. Louis and Vinny Lecavalier, the team captain, said they had not spoken to either owner Oren Koules or Len Barrie or GM Brian Lawton about Melrose's firing.
"We were not involved in any decisions," Lecavalier said. "I don't think anybody went up there and talked to ownership about it. It was their decision. It's their team."
Melrose said one of the biggest bones of contention he had with ownership and management was the minutes played by No. 1 draft choice Steven Stamkos.
"It was a constant battle between me and the owners," Melrose said. "They wanted Stamkos to play more. They wanted (Radim) Vrbata to play more. They wanted Roberts to play more. Every day was a constant battle. Every conversation was about it. I wouldn't do it. I'm a big believer you have to earn your ice time. If you're not one of best guys, you don't deserve to play, no matter how much you make."
Melrose said Stamkos will be a "great" player. "But he's not a great player right now. ... What you teach is the better he plays the more ice time he gets. That's how you teach people."
So, what have we got here. The bottom line, as Melrose said of Koules and Barrie, "I wasn't a fit for these guys."
But it went both ways. I spoke to enough players today who said Melrose's on-ice structure wasn't what it needed to be. The game certainly is not any more about throwing the puck on the ice and let the best players win. It is about giving players detailed instructions. If this happens, you go here. If that happens, you go there. It's systems. There is a lot to be said for that. I don't think anyone will argue the Lightning was the best team in 2004, but under then-coach John Tortorella, it had the best structure. The players bought it, and the team thrived.
The Tortorella regime also made extensive use of video. Did Melrose? The sentiment was, perhaps not enough.
Melrose's response: "It's (BS). we were one of the best defensive teams in the NHL. We gave up fewer goals in the first period. How do you do that if thet eam doesn't have any structure?"
Melrose is actually correct on the point about first-period goals. Entering tonight's game, Tampa Bay has allowed nine, lowest in the league.
Still, take these two quotes from new coach Rick Tocchet for what they are worth. Neither was in response to any question about Melrose. in both instances he was speaking generally.
"You have to let players know exactly where they are supposed to go and supposed to be. There are no excuses now. For whatever reason, we didn't battle as hard as we should have, and it didn't look like we knew what we were doing on the ice."
"There won't be any excuses on this team. Guys will know what is expected and what their role is, and once they hit the ice, that's all they'll have to worry about is their play. They don't have to worry about where am I going, I don't know what I'm doing. They're going to have a ton of information."
In a related matter, Melrose said he does not want to coach again. "It was really perfect. My last game was against the Detroit Red Wings, the organization I started with. I think God was trying to tell me something."
So we move on to tonight's game with the Panthers.
Tocchet said an MRI exam on Ryan Malone's injured leg was negative, but did not say when the left wing, who skated briefly this morning, is expected to return. ... Mike Smith is in net. ... F Ryan Craig will be scratched. ... Tocchet spoke of a two-player setup in which he will try to keep two players together to develop chemistry (such as Jussi Jokinen and Mark Recchi) and rotate a third player onto a line. " ... Tocchet said Stamkos will take shifts at right wing with Lecavalier and St. Louis but also play some center. "We have to get him a little more minutes and see what he can do," Tocchet said.