While Barry Melrose might still be in denial mode, the first domino to fall to get the great mullet to Tampa tumbled just a few hours ago when the Tampa Bay Lightning announced that they had fired head coach John Tortorella. In his seven seasons with the Lightning, Tortorella went 239-222-36-38, with his crowning achievement being the 2004 Stanley Cup Champ.
Unfortunately for Tortorella, it's been all downhill ever since, as the Bolts have failed to win even one playoff round after their championship seaon, culminating in an embarrassing finish at the bottom of the standings in 2007-08.
Still, even with that disastrous finish still in the rear view mirror, Tortorella seemed to maintain respect around the league, both among his peers and in the press corps, as one of the game's top coaches. Here's how John Fontana of Bolts Mag sees it:
John Tortorella may have lost the players at one point or another but I believed in his style and how he handled things. Though there was resentment and bitterness at times between the players and their coach - he wasn't paid to be Mr. Popular, he was paid to get results. And for a long time he was doing just that.
As for John, I wish him only the best as he has brought only the best out of the players here in Tampa. His name being engraved on Lord Stanley's Cup is proof of that. And I don't think it will be the last time it occurs either.
As we reviewed in Monday morning's Ice Sheet, there are all sorts of reasons that replacing Tortorella with Melrose looks like a horrible idea. But with this decision out of the way and Melrose's hiring pretty much a lead pipe cinch, it's time to think of what comes next for Tortorella. And when you look around the league, it's easy to see that there are plenty of options for a coach with a Stanley Cup on his resume.
While housing prices are still ridiculous in the Bay Area, something tells me that the Sharks may very well want to talk to Tortorella. He's already a proven winner, and it's easy to see how putting him behind the bench in San Jose in charge of a team that's done nothing but underachieve in recent years might seem to make sense. If not, Tortorella can always wait it out, as he's still got one year left on his contract with the Bolts.
Maybe he could even call ESPN about a job?