The Tampa Bay Lightning fired head coach Rick Tocchet and general manager Brian Lawton today, according to a TSN report. This completes a transformation from the Barrie-Koules era: in a single season (heck, in 2010) the team changed its owner, head coach and general manager.
Really, the impressive Rocket Richard Trophy run of Steven Stamkos – if anything – underscored how much the Lightning have squandered its considerable talent. Despite sporting a roster that includes world-class forwards (Stamkos, Martin St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier), solid support guys (Ryan Malone, the corpse of Alex Tanguay), decent goalies and a few good defensemen, it’s hard to accept that the team missed the playoffs for the third season in a row. Especially considering how awful the Eastern Conference has become.
Honestly, it was always hard for me to understand why Tocchet was ever hired in the first place. The guy just came off some serious gambling allegations while he was Wayne Gretzky’s assistant coach and it’s not as if the pairing was a smash-hit in Phoenix either. The team went 53-69-12 with Tocchet, good enough to earn them Victor Hedman via the second pick last year and a sixth-to-last-place stance this year.
On the bright side, the team can take a great new direction with freshly minted owner Jeff Vinik (who wrote a letter to fans – H/T to Raw Charge for that link). The TSN story notes that the Lightning could very well land the draft’s second pick again and can go no lower than number seven. That means that in three years the team will have a first overall pick (Stamkos), a second pick (Hedman) and a 2-7 pick. Not to mention the benefits of getting better choices in the draft’s later rounds.
Who knows what other changes this team can make (I might take a look at the team’s salary cap situation to give you an idea), but all I know is that they made some huge steps forward today. Stay tuned with PHT in case other teams decide to clean house, too.