LCS Hockey: Born Again
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January 22, 2019
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Mauled Mullet




Coach killer
photo by Matthieu Masquelet

The Tampa Bay Lightning lost 3-2 to the Carolina Hurricanes in a shootout Sunday afternoon. Calling the result unacceptable, Lightning management announced Rick Tocchet would be replaced with Pete Rose.

Am I the only one who remembers Tocchet pleading guilty to running an illegal gambling ring? Should he really be coaching a team? On the bright side, though, I hear tell Mrs. Gretzky had five grand on Barry Melrose not seeing Christmas.

I know some people (cough, cough, Puck Daddy, cough) are siding with Lightning management on this one, commending them for having the courage and wisdom to recognize a mistake and correct it, even going so far as to say the coaching change saved their season. But thatís a bunch of bunk. Thatís right. I said it. Bunk!

Firing Melrose did nothing but confirm the Tampa Bay Lightning as a Mickey Mouse organization. John Tortorella had it right. He ripped the franchise on the way out the door, calling owners Oren Koules and Len Barrie ďa couple of cowboys.Ē And the way they handled the Melrose situation seems to indicate theyíre more ďBrokeback Mountain" than Butch and Sundance.

Sure, itís swell to admit a mistake, but you know whatís even better? Not making the mistake in the first place.

They knew what they were getting in Melrose. Firing him after a mere 16 games is admitting theyíre either stupid or didnít do their homework. Neither is acceptable, except in the NHLís front office, where stupidity gets you a corner office.

And itís not like they replaced Melrose with Scotty Bowman. Whatís Rick Tocchet ever won? Where are his gold medals? Unless theyíre just looking to have a wicked good NCAA pool, itís a questionable hire at best.

In Tocchetís first game behind the bench, the Bolts fell to 1-3 in shootouts to produce their fifth overtime loss of the season. In other words, had the Lightning won those two earlier circus sideshows, they would have been 7-7-2 under Melrose. But I guess itís Barryís fault Vincent Lecavalier canít score on a breakaway.

Clearly, Melroseís dismissal has Lecavalierís fingerprints all over it. If Lecavalier backed the coach, Melrose would still have a job. Vinny, fresh off shoulder surgery, is having a brutal season, with a mere six goals and 11 points in his first 16 games.

Melrose claims management told him to reduce Vinnyís workload this season. The Tampa captain logged 22:57 a night last year, but he was averaging around 19:30 with Melrose, only breaking 20 minutes in six of his 16 games. With Tocchet at the helm, Lecavalier skated 21:40 and responded with four shots and his seventh goal of the campaign. Vinny was also back on the penalty kill, skating 1:40 while shorthanded.

If management truly did tell Melrose to curtail Lecavalierís minutes, then they were dooming Mullet to failure. Vinny has to be the lead dog.

Radim Vrbata, whoís now gone 33 games without a goal, also saw a bump in ice time under Tocchet, skating a season-high 17:39 against the Canes. He responded with one assist, three shots, and two lazy penalties.

Tocchet gave Steve Stamkos 15:10 in ice time, marking the most minutes of the youngsterís career. Melrose was castigated for refusing to make Stamkos the No. 2 center and lavish him with playing time, but maybe the kid simply isnít ready for the NHL?

Itís not like Tampa is overflowing with legit pivots, so if Stamkos was capable of handling the minutes, Iím sure Melrose would have run him out there. And Stamkosí team-worst minus-8 would seem to indicate Melrose may be correct in his evaluation.

For the most part, Tocchet skated Stamkos with Mark Recchi and Gary Roberts. Thatís like putting Miley Cyrus between Bea Arthur and Cloris Leachman. Not sure Stamkosí production is going to skyrocket with old and older on his wings.

In axing Melrose, Tampa management is boldly proclaiming the inmates are indeed running the asylum. Score one for the mentally unbalanced.

Things in Tampa are going to get much worse before they get better.


BOUCHER FOR SYDOR
I was rather surprised to hear the Stars traded Philippe Boucher to the Penguins for Darryl Sydor.

Both guys are making $2.5 million, and theyíll both be unrestricted after the season, so itís about as clean a swap as you can get.

I havenít seen Boucher play yet this year, but unless his surgically repaired shoulder is being held together with duct tape and string, this is a real wizard trade for the Birds.

Sydor remains a mobile, steady presence on the back line, but he was nothing but a spare part in Pittsburgh. Even with Sergei Gonchar and Ryan Whitney on the mend, Sydor still wasnít a fixture in the lineup. Then again, considering how awful Mark Eaton has been this year, he probably should have been.

But if Boucher is healthy, heís a top four guy. He doesnít play a real physical game, but heís got great size (6-3, 218), was averaging 21:43 a night with the Stars, and he used to have one of the biggest shots in hockey, ringing up 35 goals in the first two years after the lockout. If the Stars are willing to cut him loose, Iím guessing Boucherís shoulder injuries have taken their toll.

But even if Boucher canít drop the hammer like he used to, he still shoots right-handed. And thatís an enormous plus for the Penguins, who have perennially had fewer right hands than a pirate ship. But now with Boucher and Kris Letang on board, thatís two righties in the top six.

Come playoff time, the Penguins could roll out Gonchar, Whitney, Boucher, Brooks Orpik, Rob Scuderi, and Letang, with Alex Goligoski, Hal Gill, and Eaton waiting in the wings. Thatís quality. It also frees up another chip at the trade deadline.

I really donít see the point in Dallas making this deal. Iím guessing the hope is Sydor, a member of the í99 Cup squad, can help unite the room and lead the Stars out of their early doldrums. Good luck with that.

By the way, I went to Sydorís wikipedia page to confirm the year the Stars won the Cup, and it was already updated with the trade. Who in the blue hell is the guy who races to wikipedia to update the Darryl Sydor page? Seriously, thatís a red flag.

And why the hell doesnít LCS have a wiki page yet? Letís go, people.



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