Call it a case of Torts and the Hair.
“Our goalie gives us a chance after two periods and we can’t put 20 minutes of disciplined, hard hockey together,” said the Lightning coach in an expletive-filled tirade. “We don’t deserve anything.”
So who said it? John Tortorella or Barry Melrose?
The “expletive” should have been a dead giveaway that it was the former Lightning bench boss, (coincidentally also on the heels of an October loss to the New York Rangers), but you may be surprised just how close Melrose came to duplicating his predecessor after only two regular season games.
Following back-to-back 2-1 losses to the Rangers in Prague, in which the Lightning were out shot 80-40, many of us at the NHL Network were surprised Melrose had not checked his analyst’s hat at the door before entering the media area and sitting down at the podium.
“We don’t compete, we’re too easy to play against,” Melrose complained. “We have a lot of skill on our team, but skill means nothing if you don’t work hard.
“My biggest problem was I can’t play Gratton’s line every shift. It’s probably the lowest paid line we’ve got on the ice, but by far the best line in the last two games.
“For some reason, I think our guys think you’ll get a two-minute minor for shooting the puck.
“I hope our guys are embarrassed by that second period. I know the coaching staff was and I’m sure our ownership and management were. Our guys are trying to win without working and that doesn’t happen.
“We have a sign in our mirror over our dressing room that says, ‘Are you proud of what you see?’ Right now I don’t think that many guys are proud of what they see.”
As a fan of Tortorella for his honesty over the years, both in assessing his players and the often ridiculous nature of the questions he had to face from the media, I will not condemn Melrose for his Sunday offerings. In fact, I am thrilled he said what he did. Selfishly, it makes our presentation of post-game press conferences that much more relevant, giving fans something well beyond the wishy-washy assessments we are all tired of.
The question is, though, where does he go from here?
Tampa’s early problems are mainly offensive and, for the most part, the forwards are veterans. They tend to tune this kind of stuff out. Already I’ve heard Melrose make multiple references to how much guys are making. That could be a slippery slope down which to venture.
But hey, if Melrose can entertain the masses and pull the Lightning from worst to first in the division as his owners are expecting, he will have a shot at the Jack Adams award. Keep in mind, the coach of the year award is voted upon by the broadcasters, who tend to really appreciate good sound bites.
Brian Duff is a host of On The Fly on the NHL Network. Like his minor hockey days (playing goalie, defense and forward) his broadcasting career has been all over the map. In radio and TV from Medicine Hat to Edmonton, Toronto to Ottawa and back, Brian has been with the NHL Network since 2007 and has been covering the game for nearly 15 years. Read more of his THN.com Blog HERE.