Barry Melrose to Light It Up in Tampa Bay?

B.D. GallofCorrespondent IJune 25, 2008

Perhaps you are still scratching your head, wondering how the cream puff who covered hockey on ESPN suddenly found his way to another coaching gig. One has to imagine The Mullet gloriously flying down between Grandma Ethel and Grandpa Irving, ready to be presented to the Tampa Bay hockey community the other day. If only we could have spied their stare.

Barry returns to coaching after 12 years on the outside. He says it's because he wants to be "on the inside again." However, Barry has wanted to be on the inside for quite a while. Only now, since the new Tampa ownership suddenly said to themselves, "Hey how bout that mullet guy on TV?" have things suddenly changed.

"They approached me. I couldn't wait to say yes," said Barry with a gleaming smile, surrounded by the oily quaff that sits on his cranium like a lifeless poodle.

Yesterday's official announcement surprised nobody, mainly because Melrose has openly discussed the possibility of his taking the Tampa job, acting like the big cheese in various hockey events towards the end of the season.

Melrose's move was the worst kept secret in hockey (besides Brian Burke leaving for Toronto once his tenure with the Ducks is over). We can call Melrose eager. Or maybe he's just full of himself. But is he the right guy? Well, maybe.

Personally, I think he's the wrong guy...but he just might find himself in the right situation.

Tampa Bay's team is in shambles only four years removed from a Stanley Cup, perhaps languishing under the tight yoke of John Tortorella for at least two years too many. The players seemed to tune him out before the 2007-08 season even began.

Then again, Torts had no control on the mess at the goalie position, which has unraveled ever since the Lightning dealt Nikolai Khabibulin. Nobody has been able to fill his goalie pads since. And that includes Khabibulin, who didn't exactly blow the world away in Chicago.

GM Jay Feaster, however, still remains GM, despite his role being, to use the term pitched by new ownership, "evaluated." Ohhh, spooky!

But at least the Chicago Blackhawks finally turned the corner. Tampa has not, despite the presence of Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis, Dan Boyle, and many other stars.

Betting-maven Rick Tocchet and recently retired Minnesota fan favorite Wes Walz quickly followed Melrose to Florida. They will serve as assistant coaches as they try to fix the Lightning. Also along for the ride will be 2008 No. 1 overall pick Steven Stamkos. Not a bad band-aid, to say the least. Stamkos stands poised with a good offense to make a difference.

But, here is one concern...

I have never been convinced of Melrose's coaching acumen. It seemed to me that Wayne Gretzky was the reason the the L.A. Kings got to the Stanley Cup Finals. Melrose coached Los Angeles from 1992 to 1995. But their biggest success was only in that first year. Thereafter, he became an ESPN personality, and was left out of coaching conversations.

Oren Koules (a Hollywood horror film producer) and Len Barrie (former NHLer and real estate guy) have quickly begun their work as owners after gaining league approval.

Perhaps they knew Tampa needed a "nice guy" to juxtapose the sometimes cantankerous and passionate former coach. Player's coaches are not overrated—nor are they always an answer.

Willie Randolph didn't work out in New York. But then again, a player's coach can be the right tonic on the right team. And Tampa Bay might reap that reward this year or next.

What is concerning, however, is that the team plans on being "shockingly aggressive" in free agency. Sounds like next season might be shockingly disappointing with that impatient attitude and mindset.

But Tampa has a lot of talent. If they add a key player or two and play their game right, they might just be able to put something cohesive and effective together.

That's right, a mulleted man might be behind that bench for longer than you can imagine if the chemistry is right. Keep the kids from the barber, because there might be a new sensation in the Sunshine State...

Besides, of course, pants hiked up past the belly and socks past the knees.