Try as we might, we simply can't accept the apparent reality that Barry "The Mullet" Melrose is a sought-after coaching commodity in 2008; that a guy who has perfected the art of ESPN pundit buffoonery for the last decade is viewed as a potential solution for a struggling franchise. It's like waking up to find that Skip Bayless has been named the managing editor of Sports Illustrated.
Nonetheless, The Mullet could be back behind an NHL bench this fall. Damien Cox of The Toronto Star calls Melrose's hiring by the Tampa Bay Lightning to replace current head coach John Tortorella "one of the worst kept secrets in hockey." It's a secret he expects to be revealed in the next few days:
It's believed new Tampa owner Oren Koules is the driving force behind the hiring of Melrose, who led the Los Angeles Kings to the the 1993 Stanley Cup final against Montreal. In recent years, the Kelvington, Sask. native has been a featured analyst on ESPN.
Koules, once partnered with former Columbus president Doug MacLean to buy the Lightning before that collaboration broke up, is looking for a marquee name to help sell and market the club in central Florida. Tampa, which won the 2004 Stanley Cup, missed the playoffs this year. Melrose's hiring will surprise many NHL watchers, as will his salary, expected to be about $2 million per season.
Damian Cristodero of the St. Pete Times is rather tired of this dance, as "everything goes smoother once the elephant in the room is shooed away." If this is the end of Torts in Tampa, Cristodero doesn't expect him to be out of work for long, with the Senators, Maple Leafs and Sharks in the mix for his services. (Perhaps that explains at least some of the apprehension in their respective coaching searches.) Tortorella-to-the-Leafs is something we've heard from several people; and for a franchise that needs a top-to-bottom philosophical facelift, it's a rather inspired choice.
Barry Melrose in Tampa Bay? Hey, just because it doesn't make a damn lick of sense to us doesn't mean it won't work. We're thrilled that Hollywood producer Oren Koules is breaking into the NHL's stodgy old men club; maybe we should stop with the doubting and just embrace the wackiness of this decision.