Sunday, June 1, 2008

Rumors swirl around Melrose, Bolts

While the Florida Panthers coaching search drags on, it seems as though the Tampa Bay Lightning may have a move of their own. While nothing has been announced, and both sides have avoided comments, there are reports and rumors that ESPN commentator Barry Melrose may be the head coach of the Tampa Bay Lightning next season.

According to a report in the Toronto Star, Melrose is in line for the job. The paper reported that it had been told Melrose will sign a contract sometime in the next couple days for $2 million a season with the Bolts.

The Lightning were Stanley Cup winners in 2004. Post-lockout, Tampa has struggled to adjust to the "new NHL." Last season, they were dead last in the conference. New ownership is coming in and is looking for someone to replace current head coach John Tortorella.

When asked about this situation on SportsCenter Friday, Barry Melrose deflected the question as any professional would. "I want to coach again in the NHL. But nothing's going on. Uh, I work for ESPN and I'm very happy working for ESPN," said Melrose.

Lightning GM Jay Feaster also deferred comment to after the sale of the franchise was complete. In a statement released Friday, Feaster said, "We have been asked by both Palace Sports & Entertainment and OK Hockey that unless a hockey operations issue is time-sensitive or deadline-sensitive, all items be deferred until after the closing of the sale of the franchise. In as much as John Tortorella is under contract to be the head coach of the Tampa Bay Lightning for the 2008-09 season, this is not necessarily a time-sensitive issue."

This comes as somewhat as a surprise to me. Sure, coming in last place isn't the goal at the start of the season. But Just 3 seasons ago, Tortorella led the Lightning to the Holy Grail. Now he's cut free. Will he land in South Florida? Torts worked well with his young team in 2003-2004, most notably Vinnie Lecavlier and Brad Richards (both were only 24 when they won the Cup). I can see some similarities in the 2004 Cup winners to the 2008-2009 Panthers. A young, talent filled team, a couple of older veterans (Dave Andreychuk won his first cup in '04 with Tampa), and a solid netminder who just needs some decent defending. While this deal isn't even done yet, I wonder how much Jacques Martin is watching this situation from his seat in Sunrise.


Imber said...

Trust me, Torts will definitely not be the Panthers coach ever. He was quoted as saying after the Lightning dealt the Cats their final blow this season that they love messing up the Panthers chances cause they don't like us. There's no way he ends up the Panthers coach. Recent rumors are Andre Savard and Paul Maurice.

Stanley C. said...

Well yea, but obviously the coach of a last place team is going to enjoy messing up their in state rival. I don't think that's a sign that he has some personal issue with the organization and will never coach here. I was just thinking out loud, that another option might have just opened up.

ASponge said...

See, here's what bothers me about this.

Why aren't the Panthers trying to make a real media splash by getting the most famous hockey face in Barry Melrose?

His presence alone would have invigorated this franchise.

Imber said...

Honestly Adam, a lot of people are laughing at the Lightning for this possible move. I think it's probably the last thing the Panthers would need, seeing that most of the league doesn't take us seriously anyway.

FloridaPanthers4ever said...

Once the Pens get bounced in 5 then the Panthers will have their coach (Savard).


Imber said...

Why? Savard has a horrible record as a coach. Honestly, I'd take ANYone over Savard. He's just as passive as Martin and the last thing we need.

ASponge said...

I just thought Melrose would bring publicity. I guess he's a better broadcaster than coach?