Tocchet: I wanted Sullivan
Interim Lightning coach Rick Tocchet is in a tough position. He inherited the team after Barry Melrose was fired on Nov. 14 and then had a coaching position to fill after he was promoted to the top job. On Tuesday, the Lightning hired Mike Sullivan. It was an interesting choice. Sullivan was on then-coach John Tortorella's staff. That worked in his favor as he was being paid anyway and, as a former Bruins head coach, he is a good fall-back in case Tocchet doesn't work out.
But Tocchet said he was a participant in every step of the hiring, from the first discussions with GM Brian Lawton to "two or three" private conversations during the past week.
"Pretty well all of it," Tocchet said when asked how involved he was in the choice. "He's got really good credentials. ... we also have the same philosophy. He wants to play a high-tempo game. He wants to practice at a real high tempo and be a little more aggressive on the puck."
Lawton said the ultimate decision to hire Sullivan was his, and Sullivan got a new one-year contract. But Lawton said he advised Tocchet to come to him with any reservations.
"I would have processed that and possibly gone in another direction," Lawton said, adding that Sullivan ultimately was "a slam dunk" after Tocchet came back and said, 'He's great.' "
Sullivan, 40, will work with the defense, as he did last season under Tortorella.
"He taught me a lot last year, my rookie year," defenseman Mike Lundin said. "He's one of the smartest coaches I ever played for."
Sullivan played with Tocchet from 1998-2000 for the Coyotes. He also played with Lawton for the Sharks and assistant coach Wes Walz for the Flames.
"It's easier when you have that established relationship," Sullivan said. "I went through the process with Brian Lawton and Tocc and wanted to make sure it was a fit for both of them. It's important coaches share the same philosophy in order to work together."
"He's a very valuable guy," Tocchet said. "He's been a head coach. He coached USA Hockey. He's got tons of experience. He's going to be a very valuable guy on our staff."