Carter Gaddis and Erik Erlendsson of the Tampa Tribune reported in this morning's paper that the rumors are indeed true and that Head Coach John Tortorella will be fired once new owner Oren Koules takes control of the team within the next month. Rumors have been swirling for over a week now that Koules wants Tortorella replaced with former Kings bench boss and ESPN analyst Barry Melrose.
Call me crazy, but forcing out the winningest American born coach in league history for a guy who was 20-some games under .500 coaching in the NHL in his career and hasn't been behind the bench of an NHL team since 1994-95 doesn't strike me as an upgrade. Throw in the fact that Melrose was rumored to have an expanded say in personnel decisions late in his tenure in LA and the sharp drop off the face of the planet that team experienced after their Finals appearance in 1992-93 and you can officially color me scared now. Also, the idea that's been floated in the Canadian media, if true, that Koules is making this decision to try to market the sport of hockey more heavily to Tampa's supposed naive rubes (you know, the ones who happened to be in the top-10 in attendance league-wide over the past three seasons) also shows that Koules has a frighteningly limited understanding of the Lightning fan base and the Tampa Bay market as well. This isn't a town that needs to be sold on hockey, this is a town that supports its team and needs competent leadership to get their club back to the summit while Vincent Lecavalier is still in his prime. I'll give Koules the benefit of the doubt, and that the biased northern hockey media which still can't comprehend how the Lightning and Hurricanes came out of that terrible Southeast Division to snatch hockey's holy grail out from under their oh-so-entitled thumbs in two of the past four seasons is simply freelancing by reporting that as rationale on this move (when it's really just a buddy-hire, which is not better, but less offensive, at least).
It also doesn't strike me as terribly professional that the split has been handled this way. Perhaps that's an unfortunate function of the sale of the team, but going back to the way the deadline deals were handled there's an ominous trend developing of the Lightning hockey operations being conducted through the media with Koules' fingerprints all over the moves. Are you the Mark Cuban of the NHL, or the Daniel Snyder, Mr. Koules? Hell, neither one of them have won a championship, so does it even really matter? I could be wrong, but I can't imagine the Red Wings ever airing their dirty laundry out in public like this.