Regime change in Tampa Bay as Tocchet, Lawton told to bolt

The most disappointing thing about Rick Tocchet getting fired by the Tampa Bay Lightning on Monday morning was that I had 6-to-1 with my local numbers guy that he'd get turfed on Wednesday. (rim shot)

Tocchet and GM Brian Lawton were eradicated from the Lightning, the last lingering managerial symptoms of a regime whose folly has mercifully ended. Lawton wasn't at the team's final two games and didn't have a contract extension in hand as the season ended, so the writing was on the wall there.

He took over a team whose farm system was in shambles and whose new "couple of cowboys" ownership had their own foolhardy ideas on how to reshape the roster. There's a fascinating book to be written about which decisions former co-owner Len Barrie made (trading Dan Boyle(notes), according to most) and which decisions he nearly made (trading 51-goal scorer Steven Stamkos(notes) to the New York Rangers last summer, according to Glen Sather) despite Lawton being the GM. The chapter on the Vincent Lecavalier(notes) trading block could be the stuff of great political satire.

As for Tocchet, he always struck me as a dogged worker and a well-liked coach who wasn't exactly made of the stuff winning NHL head coaches are made of. He seemed like a great assistant, the lieutenant of the right temperament to a coach that needed one. The guy who glares at you and says things like, "I believe the general just gave you a direct order, private, and I suggest you obey it."

He had a 53-69-26 record behind the bench and couldn't get this Tampa team to contend in a division where a gutted Thrashers team was able to. I'll give him credit for the resurrection of Steve Downie's(notes) career; not sure how much Tocchet had to do with Steven Stamkos working his ass off in the summer and finding his confidence as a sophomore.

Lightning owner Jeff Vinik posted the following on the Bolts' Web site:

I believe that the hockey side of the TBL organization needs a "fresh start" in order to help us fulfill our goal of being a world-class organization. On behalf of the whole Lightning organization, I thank Brian and Rick for their service to the Lightning and wish them well in their future endeavors.

He said the search for the team's CEO is "well underway" and that the CEO will hire the new GM, and the new GM will hire the head coach, and this will all be done before the NHL draft. How this syncs up with Michael Russo's tweet that the job is former Minnesota Wild President/GM Doug Risebrough's "if he wants it" is anyone's guess.

But seriously, Vinik: Back up a truck filled with hedge fund profits to the house of one Mr. Steven Yzerman. Let him know the time has come to fly from the Red Wings' nest, and that Tampa Bay is much lovelier in December than Calgary. Maybe have him meet Hulk Hogan and sample some of the local cuisine (re: Hooters). Bottom line: Make a run at the guy Steven Stamkos may be on his way to becoming on the ice.

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