A Clean Slate: Tampa Bay Lightning Fires Coach and GM

JC De La TorreAnalyst IIIApril 12, 2010

TAMPA, FL - NOVEMBER 21:  Head coach Rick Tocchet of the Tampa Bay Lightning watches his team take on the Nashville Predators at the St. Pete Times Forum on November 21, 2008 in Tampa, Florida.   (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)
Doug Benc/Getty Images

It's a raw deal for former Tampa Bay Lightning head coach Rick Tocchet. Tampa Bay's new owner, Jeffery Vinik decided his franchise needed a clean slate, firing both Tocchet and general manager Brian Lawton in a sweep that basically resets the franchise and purges it of any remenants of the Koules-Barrie era (or more accurately, error).

Tocchet dealt with an insecure GM who sabotaged his hockey team because he wouldn't become one of his "yes men".

He was frustrated by the uneven ownership of the OK Hockey Group, attempts to trade superstars Vincent Lecavalier and Steven Stamkos, as well as the teams inability to find help behind the blue line.

Make no mistake, folks. Lawton was as horrible a general manager as he was a player in the league.

Tocchet wasn't a bad head coach, despite his 53-69-26 record. He inherited a zoo in the wake of dumb and dumber's hiring of the immortal Barry Melrose. He had to guide a young player in Steven Stamkos, handle vets like Marty St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier all while trying to install a system during the season.

In his second season (his first without the interim label), Tocchet had this hockey team in contention until March but Lawton's sabatoge of his coaching staff and player roster torpedoed any hopes for Tampa Bay's return to the post season.

It's no wonder Vinik took one look at this dysfunctional family and said "the heck with all of you".

Vinik is going to hire a "Hockey CEO", who will in turn hire a GM, who will hire a coach. Yes, Lightning fans, you're owner actually has a solid plan to turn this team around and get the Bolts back to the playoffs.

Vinik says he wants to "Bring it back". He wants the Tampa Bay area to love hockey again. He wants to have the excitement of the playoffs re-energize the area's front running market to make it cool again to go to a hockey game.

Who can blame him if he didn't believe that Tocchet or Lawton were not the men to get it there.

"To me, organizational structure is extremely important. Chain of command," Vinik said in a video published on the team's website. "And I want an organization in place where everybody has the same values, everybody has the same vision, all oars going in the same direction."

In other words, with the general manager and head coach feuding, it didn't matter who won because in the end, they both lost.