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The Tampa Bay Lightning have announced the firing of general manager Brian Lawton and head coach Rick Tocchet.  This isn’t really a surprising development; both were holdovers from the Barrie/Koules debacle and while neither can be fairly judged without inside knowledge of what decisions were theirs and what decisions were made by ownership, they didn’t experience success with the team.

 

Perhaps most damning was the relationship the two had with each other.  There was a clear sense that not all was right back in February, when Lawton fired assistant coach Wes Walz and replaced him with Norfolk coach Jim Johnson.  Tocchet was not consulted on the decision and made his objections known – not only privately, but also to the media.

 

Rather than choose between the two, Tampa Bay’s new owner Jeff Vinik opted for what he called a “fresh start” on the hockey operations side.  In his letter to Lightning fans, Vinik thanked both men for their work with the Lightning, and explained that once a CEO is chosen that man will select a general manager and that the G.M. will then pick his own head coach.

 

It’s a sensible decision, and certainly will make it easier for whoever ends up running hockey operations to ensure his strategy and goals are followed all the way down the line, by his people.

 

As for who the new general manager will be, there are plenty of options but the smart money right now seems to be on ex-Wild G.M. Doug Risebrough:

 

The Lightning’s in the process of hiring a CEO and then will hire the GM. I’ve been told for weeks that if Doug Risebrough wants the job, it’s his. When former Wild COO Jac Sperling was guiding the ownership process down there with Jeff Vinik, the two did an incredible amount of due diligence on the Lightning, not just behind the scenes, but the on-ice product. One of the people they talked with more than once was Doug Risebrough.

 

Risebrough would be a fine candidate, and an excellent choice for a quick turnaround; after all, his work with the Wild made them the most successful of the NHL’s recent expansion teams and he isn’t long removed from the general manager’s chair.

 

It’s impossible to know where this is going to go for the Lightning, but clearing the decks was a good start.

Comments (3)

  1. One of main things that comes to mind with this move is what does this mean for Lecavilier? With the emergence of Stamkos does that make him more expendable to the Lightning if it means getting some cash and bringing in another couple of pieces to fix the line up behind Stamkos and St Louis. It’s nice to have those two options at center but the return for a player of Lecavilier’s talent to help them get back to the post season.

  2. @Devon-

    Not sure Lecavalier brings such a high return these days, with the cap essentially flatlining, his terrible contract, declining production and injury history. He’s obviously an elite player, but at that salary and term? Not sure many teams will pay premium price for him.

    As for the Bolts move, I agree it’s a good start. They will, once again, be picking in the top 5 this year (with an outside shot at #1), so at one point this team will have to start competing with all that talent.

    I wish the Molsons had as much guts as Vinik when they acquired the Habs – fire the President, GM and coach! One can always dream…

  3. It sucks that Tocchet had to be let go. He did such a great job turning Stamkos career around (not saying his career was over, but he was obviously not living up to expectations) Stamkos struggles ALOT at the beginning of last year, but once Tocchet got there and changed Stamkos diet, had him sit out game to learn, he played much better in the 2nd half and then we all know what hes doing his season

    Now Im not try to take away what ppl like St Louis and many others have done for Stamkos and He is a first overall pick, but Tocchet is a big factor why Stamkos is playing the way he is now

    It sucks, but some times teams need fresh starts and his team is defiantly in need of one

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