TAMPA — Owner Len Barrie did not wear a cowboy hat to Saturday's home opener against the Hurricanes. That was the much-hyped plan after former coach John Tortorella, in an Ottawa radio interview, called Barrie and fellow owner Oren Koules "a couple of cowboys."
But with the team 0-2 heading into the game at the St. Pete Times Forum, Barrie rightly figured it was not time to taunt. He did, though, have a message for those who already are predicting a disaster of a season.
"I would say be patient," Barrie said. "We've got a good hockey team. There's nothing won in September, and the only thing won in October is baseball. I'm not going to judge our team until the end of November."
We've gone through the extenuating circumstances, but Barrie said they are valid:
• Thirteen new players.
• A shortened and hectic training camp.
• A new system, and new coaches who also must find the right chemistry.
• Superstar Vinny Lecavalier, who has played just five games, including two exhibitions, while recovering from April shoulder surgery, is not yet his old self.
"What everyone has to remember is Vinny was out almost six months and played a second game within 24 hours," Barrie said of the back-to-back season openers in Prague last weekend. "Let's just be a little patient. He's going to be fine. Let's let Vinny find his stride."
Same for the team, Barrie said:
"You have to remember, we were in 30th place. We've made changes we really believe in, so we're going to be patient with them. There's no panic button.
"I said to (vice president of hockey operations) Brian Lawton, 'If this isn't a good hockey team, then we have to go do something else.' I really believe it's a good hockey team. Do I think we can compete with anybody? Absolutely."
In other words, there's plenty of time to see how Barrie looks in a cowboy hat.