Lightning owner Oren Koules said Monday that despite the firing of coach Barry Melrose, the team's short- and long-term goals remain the same: to be "a perennial playoff contender." Koules spoke for the first time about interim coach Rick Tocchet and a perception the team is operating at loose ends. He also sent a message to fans.
What was the concern about Melrose?
In talking to many players and coaches and general managers, most feel we have a very good team. In our opinion, we weren't improving at all, and the players weren't responding to Barry.
Do you now rethink the philosophy of making moves "outside the box"?
We inherited a last-place team and were forced to make a lot of major decisions in a short time. It is impossible to have every move you make be perfect. But give us credit for being quick to respond to the ones that aren't.
What is your confidence level things will head in the right direction?
Very high. Remember, we're just three points from the playoffs (entering Monday) with 65 games left in our schedule.
With a new coach providing what could be considered a fresh start, what is the short- and long-term plan?
We don't consider this a fresh start. We're continuing to work toward the goals we set down this summer, and that is to turn a last-place team into a perennial playoff contender.
Any concern firing Melrose and the quick trigger on Matt Carle give the impression there isn't a plan?
The plan is to make the playoffs and build the best team for short- and long-term success. That hasn't changed.
Should you have laid more groundwork with fans, perhaps a greater acknowledgment turning things around could take time?
Absolutely not. Our goal is to turn a 30th-place team into a very successful team.
What do you expect from Tocchet?
Wins and losses, obviously, are important, but continued improvement, progression and cohesion are very important also.
What's the message to fans?
We are working every day to put the best product we can on the ice for this year, while not ignoring the future.