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Lightning Owners Mark Cuban Wannabe's?

November 14, 2008, 7:37 PM ET [ Comments]
Andy Strickland
St Louis Blues Blogger •1380 ESPN • RSSArchiveCONTACT
First off as I told Eklund earlier today during a phone conversation, Brendan Shanahan is signing soon with a team very close to his New York home.

The good news for him is that he will not have to move his family.

I am told a decision has been made as the final two teams came down to New Jersey and Philadelphia.

A friend close to the Pittsburgh Pengiuns tells me Pittsburgh was never interested and was never in the running.

There were never as many teams interested in signing Shanahan as speculated. Only a few teams ever expressed serious interest.

St. Louis and Chicago were two of them.

I assume a announcement will come down shortly. I am about as done with this story as I was with the Mats Sundin drama several weeks ago.

On to my story....

What happens when NHL assistant coaches undermine the head coach?

The coach gets fired 16 games into the season.

This afternoon Lightning GM Brian Lawton called Barry Melrose into his office where the two engaged in a very, very, short meeting.

It didn’t take long for Melrose to get up and walk out.

Can somebody please tell me what is going on in Tampa Bay?


Is this the model the NHL is looking for with their individual franchises?

I certainly doubt it.

Look I’m not going to sit here and say it wasn’t a stretch to hire Barry Melrose in the first place but c’mon, they gave it to him.

This is the coach Lightning Ownership wanted.

Barry Melrose was hired before Len Barrie and Oren Koules even took over the organization.

He was the guy who was going to create the biggest PR splash and give the organization the most attention.

Is it just me or does it appear on the surface that this Ownership group has failed at just about everything they’ve tried to do?

A perfect example would be searching NHL rosters for a D-man shortly after trading Dan Boyle.

There is the common belief throughout the NHL that assistant coach Rick Tocchet was after Melrose’s job from the day he was hired.

I am told by very reliable sources that Tocchet along with other assistant coach Wes Walz would rarely even socialize with Melrose, instead they would hang with their buddies who happen to be the owners of the team.

Both Tocchet and Walz were hand picked by Lightning Ownership.

Melrose did hire Assistant Coach Cap Raeder who worked on his staff during their days in LA. Word is Raeder was not permitted to work on the bench during games.

People close to Melrose told him several weeks ago that it would be a mistake to accept this job.

Melrose thought he had no choice if he wanted to re-establish himself as an NHL Head Coach.

Getting a three year deal worth $1 million per season isn’t a bad reason to get back into coaching either.

It wasn’t just the coaching staff that undermined Melrose but I’m told it was aging players Gary Roberts and Mark Recchi who also went out of their way to undermine him as well.

You don’t hire coaches who are friends with the players.

It just doesn’t work!

In my opinion, which is also shared by many hockey people, this current Ownership group thought they were getting a puppet in Barry Melrose.

They want to be hands on Owners who believed Melrose would do things their way.

Obviously that wasn’t the case.

Playing time for Steven Stamkos was obviously a major issue.

It’s clear Stamkos, who will be a great player in this league, wasn’t ready to step on the NHL stage and be a superstar overnight.

Very few players ever are.

The team created such a big PR campaign in the summer they had no choice but to keep him.

It seems this Ownership group is more interested in bringing in people they share a business relationship with as opposed to hiring those that will help build the foundation for a winning hockey operation.

Sources say Matt Pettinger was notified by Tampa Bay that he would be claimed off waivers before Lightning GM Brian Lawton was even aware. He was originally waived by the Vancouver Canucks.

I already documented several weeks ago in a story I wrote about how Pettinger
had a prior business relationship with Lightning Ownership.

He’s far from the only player or person with the Tampa Bay organization that shares business ties with this group.

I don’t feel bad for Melrose from the standpoint that he’s far from the only coach to get fired early in a season, but I do feel bad that he was brought into this particular situation after so many years away from coaching.

I don’t know enough of the circumstances to know if he deserved to be fired, but I have spoken to enough people who say he deserved better than this.

It’s obvious this group is trying their best to be a poor man’s Mark Cuban. Only difference is Cuban is a billionaire.

More to come,

Andy Strickland

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