Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Tampa Bay Lightning, Barry Melrose spar again

Barry Melrose says he wants the Lightning to lose every game.


Barry Melrose says he wants the Lightning to lose every game.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Rick Tocchet's steady voice belied his heightened emotions.

Barry Melrose on Tuesday had again inserted himself into the Lightning's season with a radio interview in which he said he hopes Tampa Bay loses all its games and reiterated his belief that No. 1 draft choice Steven Stamkos is not NHL-ready.

But this time the fired Tampa Bay coach added that Tocchet, the assistant elevated to interim coach, is on ownership's string.

"I take it personally," Tocchet said. "I'm not a puppet. Ownership doesn't tell me who to play."

"I'm not a fan of people who go to the mike all the time to air their dirty laundry," Tocchet added. "You have a problem, it should have been done before."

Lightning general manager Brian Lawton said the organization wanted to "move past" Melrose's "classless" statements.

But in defense of Stamkos, he said, "I am extremely, extremely, extremely disappointed and upset, and I'm not going to stand for Barry Melrose taking shots at our players. To let an adult attack an 18-year-old hockey player, I think is ludicrous and embarrassing, and it is a shame he would go in that direction. He's a world-class player and only going to get better."

Melrose, since his Nov. 14 firing, has not been shy about attacking his former employer. And while Melrose, recently rehired as an ESPN analyst, told the Times he wants the story to go away, he will not hide from it, either.

"I'm in the TV business now," he said. "I can't say no comment. I'm not going to duck questions. I'm not going to lie. That's one of the things ESPN likes about me. I'm a TV analyst. I have to look at it from a different perspective."

It should be noted the Lightning is paying off Melrose's entire three-year, $2.25-million contract. But that didn't stop him from telling Toronto's 590-AM he was fired because, "The guys in charge decided they wanted to coach. … Now they've got guys in charge who let them do what they want."

Tocchet played for Melrose with the 1994-95 Kings. But owner Len Barrie, not Melrose, hired Tocchet as an assistant.

Melrose never has said he had trouble with any assistant.

"And the only reason I'm commenting on this is it was insinuated I was told what to do," Tocchet said. "I'm not a puppet or told what to do by ownership.

"I'm the head coach of the Tampa Bay Lightning. The decisions are made by me as to who is on the ice with the help of my great hockey staff."

Asked if ownership ever told Melrose whom to play, Tocchet said, "I wasn't with Barry every day. But I never was in meetings with him where he said they called him and said you have to play certain guys certain minutes. Like any organization, you have discussions about players. … Nobody has got a walkie-talkie saying, 'Hey, Barry, put this guy on the ice.' "

Tocchet also countered Melrose's take that Stamkos, with three goals, 11 points in 27 games, "is not ready for the NHL."

"He's just not strong enough physically to play against defensemen that are 6-3 or 6-4 who can skate as good as him," Melrose added. "I think he's minus-10 or minus-11. He just can't check in his own end well enough."

"I think he's wrong," Tocchet said. "Steven Stamkos is a dynamic young player. It's my job and our staff to teach him to play the game the right way. He's done that sometimes, and sometimes he's made mistakes, and that's the process of a young guy."

Melrose admitted the process of disengaging himself from the Lightning has been arduous.

"We should move on," he told the Times. "The thing is, it's a good story. The press likes it and that's why they keep bringing it up. I'm a name in hockey and Tampa made a big splash with all the stuff they did. When you do that, and when things don't work out, you become a big story."

"Our franchise just doesn't need that right now," said Tocchet, whose team, last in the league and winless in eight, plays at Buffalo tonight. "We're reeling. We're trying to win and we're trying to get guys playing the right way. I don't want to hear Barry on every weekly radio show. That's why I want to get this out."

NOTES: C Chris Gratton and RW Radim Vrbata cleared waivers. Gratton was assigned to AHL Norfolk, Vrbata to his hometown team, Mlada Boleslav, in the Czech Republic. … G Riku Helenius was re-assigned from Norfolk to ECHL Mississippi.

Damian Cristodero can be reached at

Tampa Bay Lightning, Barry Melrose spar again 12/09/08 [Last modified: Friday, December 12, 2008 1:58pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Rays morning after: Wilson Ramos showing glimpses of what's possible in 2018


    The real payoff for the Rays signing C Wilson Ramos last off-season will come in 2018, when he can play a full season fully recovered from right knee surgery.

    And Ramos is giving the Rays a pretty good glimpse of what that can be like.

    In Friday's 8-3 win over the Orioles, he hit a grand slam - …

  2. Buccaneers-Vikings Scouting Report: Watching Kyle Rudolph, Adam Thielen and Everson Griffen


    No matter how much film we study, no matter how much data we parse, we just don't know how an NFL season will unfold.

  3. Ryan Callahan encouraged by his return


    Captain Steven Stamkos wasn't the only key Lightning player to make a triumphant return Friday night against Nashville.

  4. Marc Topkin's takeaways from Friday's Rays-Orioles game

    The Heater

    RHP Alex Cobb hates to hear how he "battled through" or "grinded out" a start rather than just dominated, but that's kind of what he did Friday, allowing nine hits and a walk and being charged with two wild pitches but only three runs in earning his 12th win.

  5. Lightning's Steven Stamkos looks close to top form in first game since November

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — The wait felt like forever for Lightning captain Steven Stamkos, having gone 10 months without playing in a game.

    A scramble in front of the Lightning goal has Matthew Peca, far left, and Erik Cernak, middle, helping out goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy during the third period of a 3-1 win against the Predators. Vasilevskiy, who made 29 saves, was “exceptional,” coach Jon Cooper says.