Melrose takes the day off
Kind of an interesting scene outside the team hotel today as we began driving to practice in Coral Springs. Stopped at a red light, we look up and there is coach Barry Melrose waiting to cross the street and get back to the hotel. Strange, since the hotel is near the BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise and practice was about 20 minutes from beginning.
So we pull a U-turn and drive up beside him, and after he jokingly insulted my crappy rental car, said he had a meeting with the players and decided it was best to be away from the team for a day.
"Just for a day?" I asked.
He laughed and reiterated it was just for the day.
Apparently, Melrose called a meeting with the players, who were dressing for practice at the BankAtlantic Center and addressed two straight games of terrible first periods, and especially Monday night's effort that saw Tampa Bay fall behind 3-0 to the Capitals in what turned into a 4-2 loss.
Goaltender Olie Kolzig said Melrose gave the players "a good scolding," and decided to skip practice to give everyone a break.
"Maybe he felt it was just time," Kolzig said. "Maybe he just wants to get away from his bratty kids right now, and let us figure it out on our own. We got a pretty good scolding and tomorrow is another day. Just a day to get away, I guess."
Assistant coaches Rick Tocchet, Wes Walz and Cap Raeder ran practice.
"Sometimes guys get tired of hearing him and he gets tired of hearing them," Tocchet said. "Every coach does that. You need a break, have to get away from the team for a second. I honestly don't think it's that big a deal. It really isn't."
And, in fact, we have seen this before from coach John Tortorella. But Torts certainly let his assistants run practices when he thought the players needed a break from him or to use as motivation, which is what Melrose clearly was doing here.
As general manager Brian Lawton said of Melrose, "It's his job to motivate the players."
Anyway, Melrose was particularly angered after Monday's game because it was Kolzig's first game against his former Capitals team. Melrose questioned how teammates did not show up better for one of their own in a big-time situation. It was the second straight game in which Tampa Bay had a lousy first period and went on to outplay an opponent. Saturday against the Flyers, it was a victory. Monday against the Capitals, it was a deflating loss.
"It really comes down to everyone looking at themselves in the mirror and motivating themselves to get ready for the drop of the puck, and not go out there and get a feel for the game before you decide to take off," Kolzig said. "Smitty (goalie Mike Smith) has masked a lot of our problems in the starts of games so they are not as magnified as last night. maybe last night was what it took for us to all wake up and smell the coffee. That's why you play 60 minutes. The good teams are the ones that do it from start to finish."
Speaking of finishing, Wednesday night's game with the Panthers ends a five-game road trip on which Tampa Bay is 1-2-1.
"Hopefully, the boys will respond to it and get a big win tomorrow," Smith said. "A win tomorrow and it's not a bad road trip."
Injury updates: left wing Ryan Malone did not skate and still is listed as day to day with what the team is calling a lower-body injury. ... Right wing Evgeny Artyukhin (groin) skated.