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Lightning's Tortorella regrets offering to leave team

John Tortorella wishes he could do it over again because he certainly would do it differently.

The Lightning coach said he regrets telling general manager Jay Feaster perhaps it was time he step down because he discovered that is not how he feels.

"I want to stay here and fight and try to make this team better with the new ownership group and Jay Feaster," Tortorella said Wednesday. "I want to be part of the retooling."

But at his postseason meeting with Feaster, Tortorella said the opposite; that after seven seasons and finishing 2007-08 last in the league, "Maybe there needs to be a different voice."

In other words, Tortorella, with one year left on his contract, offered to step aside or be fired, igniting a drama that has raised questions about his job security.

That the story got out, originally on WDAE-AM 620, was uncomfortable for Tortorella, preparing in Portland, Maine, for today's opening of the U.S. training camp for the world championship.

As for his future, an ownership change from absentee Palace Sports & Entertainment to ultra hands-on Oren Koules seems inevitable. Neither has commented on Tortorella's status, and a statement by team president Ron Campbell was no ringing endorsement.

"The organization's current priorities have been to finalize the business deal between the two ownership parties, and we have been advised that any non-time-sensitive hockey decisions should wait, if at all possible, until the completion of the transactions upon us," he said. "I hope all of us in the organization can continue to respect those desires until we are ready to move forward."

"I'm embarrassed that it's turned into this," Tortorella said. "The whole situation as far as my meeting with Jay and now it's out; this is my fault how this has happened. I have to give a bunch of skin for the season. It starts with me. I'm not afraid of that."

That the season was miserable was bad enough. But Tortorella and Feaster, who always worked so well together, strongly disagreed on how Tortorella handled situations with Andre Roy and Shane O'Brien.

Roy was suspended three games by the league then scratched for the final 12 after an incident in Philadelphia. O'Brien was scratched for the final seven games, apparently for poor play.

Still, after his emotions calmed and discussions with his coaching staff and several more with Feaster, Tortorella, 49, who took over in January 2001 and was coach of the year in 2004 after leading the team to the Stanley Cup, knew he wanted to stay.

"I was asked, 'Are you giving in?' " Tortorella said. "In my last meeting with Jay, I told him I was wrong in my thinking and a little selfish. I have a staff and a team to worry about, and it was the wrong thing to do.

"I don't want to give in. I believe Jay Feaster and I can work with the new ownership coming in. We can turn this around. We're not far away."

Damian Cristodero can be reached at cristodero@sptimes.com.

Lightning's Tortorella regrets offering to leave team 04/23/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 30, 2008 12:11pm]
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