The Tampa Bay Lightning took their first steps into hiring Barry Melrose. They had to fire the coach they had, John Tortorella. That was done today and the Southeast Division has to learn a new bench boss's face in the mist of three head coaching changes within the last 6 months.
Torts had a year left on his contract and was still his prime as a head coach that was given the reigns of Team USA for the World Championship. His record with the Bolts was 239-222-36-38 making him one of the most successful American born coaches in the NHL. He was a winner of the Jack Adams award as the league's top coach in 2004. The same year he led his team to a Stanley Cup championship over the Calgary Flames.
But injuries and inconsistent goaltending landed the Lightning dead last in the Division. Even when at the half way point in the season they were in the midst of battling for 1st in the Southeast.
Rumors over the last week or so had ESPN analyst Melrose a candidate for the head coaching job in Tampa Bay, but Tortorella was still head coach, until today. Barry Melrose's fame (other than the annoying mullet and purple suites) was the year he took the Los Angeles Kings to the Cup Finals. Of course he had Wayne Gretzky (when he was still a dominate goal scorer in the league) on his team.
What I will miss most about Tortorella was his gut check honesty with the media and his calling out of his goaltenders. While he was rough around the corners, he was also 99% right about what he was talking about. What is interesting about this move is Torts could make the short jump to Florida to take the reigns of the Panthers who are still looking for a head coach. That would make for some sunshine state drama.