Former Lightning coach Barry Melrose went on a Toronto radio station (The Fan, 590-AM) Tuesday and took a few more swings at the organization, including that he hopes the Lightning doesn't win another game this season. Melrose, fired after going 5-7-4 in 16 games, blasted the owners, the players and even first-round pick Steven Stamkos. So time for a little He Said/We Said.
What Melrose said: "Basically I had guys in Tampa that wanted to run the team and I wouldn't let them. I was hired to coach and I coached. … Every day was a constant battle. Finally, the guys in charge decided they wanted to coach and they got rid of me. That's what it comes down to. Obviously, it wasn't a hockey decision because it's not like they've set the world on fire since they got rid of me. … Now they've got guys in charge that let them do what they want. And obviously that's not working out very well either.''
What we say: Fair enough. If management stuck their noses where they didn't belong, it was Melrose's right to punch them or, at least, ignore them. But let's not act as if Melrose didn't have a hand in this awful start. Is it all of his fault? No. Is it some? Yep, a little. By the way, wonder how new coach Rick Tocchet likes being compared to a puppet?
What Melrose said: "I hope that Tampa Bay doesn't win a game the rest of the year.''
What we say: Fine, he's bitter about being fired. We get that. But isn't Melrose once again supposed to be an impartial analyst for ESPN? Can we expect him to give us honest analysis of the Lightning ever again? This is like Peter Gammons saying, "I hope the Yankees don't win a game next season.'' (To be fair, Melrose did say he likes owner Oren Koules. Co-owner Len Barrie should not expect a Christmas card.)
What Melrose said: "I never really got close to any players in Tampa, whereas my other teams that I coached, I was always a players' coach. I really cared about my players. But the team in Tampa, I can really say there's only a couple of players that I actually cared for on that team. It was a weird team. It wasn't a Barry Melrose-type team and, obviously, it didn't work out very well.''
What we say: Whose fault is it that he didn't get close to his players? What did he expect, that he would walk through the doors with hosannas from the players? With all due respect, what has Melrose ever done as a head coach? He went to the Stanley Cup final with the best player on the planet and got outcoached by Jacques Demers when he got there. As far as getting close to the players, it's a two-way street.
What Melrose said: "(First-round pick) Steven (Stamkos) is not ready for the NHL. Steven is going to be a good player, but right now he's just not strong enough physically to play against defensemen who are 6-3 or 6-4 that can skate as good as him. … He just can't check in his own end well enough. … Right now, Steven is not a great NHL player by any stretch of the imagination.''
What we say: Yes, the 18-year-old is having a rough time adjusting to the man's league with three goals, eight assists and a minus-11 in 27 games. But he hasn't been a total fish out of water. Vinny Lecavalier finished his rookie year with only 13 goals and 15 assists. Besides, what else was the Lightning going to do with Stamkos? NHL rules forbid Stamkos from going to the minors. The only option was to send him back to juniors and was he really going to get better in a league where he already was, by far, the best player?