Erik Erlendsson is reporting that the Tampa Bay Lightning have fired Barry Melrose and named Rick Tocchet Interim Head Coach.
And with that, the Lightning are now officially spending more on ex-Head Coaches this season than they are on veteran blueliners. The new ownership is learning some hard lessons. There's not much else you can say.
From TSN, "This was a tough decision to make," Executive Vice President & General Manager Brian Lawton said. "Barry is a good man and we have a great deal of respect for him. We wish him nothing but success. However, the results were unacceptable and the players have to understand that we need to be better. Hopefully this change helps push them."
"As for Rick Tocchet, we think this is a great opportunity for him and we believe he's the type of coach who can take the team to the next level. Our players have a great deal of respect for him."
Norfolk Admirals GM Mike Butters announced today that the team has released defenseman Jeff May from his Amateur Tryout Contract. May was a teammate of Lightning forward prospect Mitch Fadden for the Lethbridge Hurricanes of the Western Hockey League last season. He was an invitee to the Tampa Prospects Camp this summer in Victoria, BC and his performance at that camp subsequently earned him a roster spot on the Lightning's Traverse City Prospects tournament squad. His poised play on the blueline during that tourney led to an invitation to the Norfolk Admirals training camp and an Amateur Tryout Contract.
Originally a 2005 5th round pick by the Detroit Red Wings, the 6-foot-2, 200-pound defenseman played 3 games for Norfolk and was scoreless. The recent arrival of veteran defenseman Jamie Heward from Tampa further complicated an already overstaffed Norfolk blueline, leading to some personnel decisions. May's release comes on the heels of the reassignment of forwards Brady Leavold and Justin Keller to their respective ECHL teams as the Admirals completed the process of paring down their roster to 23 players, including
Forwards (13) : Blair Jones, Radek Smolenak, Bracken Kearns, Paul Szczechura, Paul Zingoni, Juraj Simek, Chris Lawrence, Wyatt Smith, Brandon Segal, Brandon Bochenski, Jay Rosehill, Brent Henley, and Zenon Konopka.
On the same day that Norfolk Admirals GM Mike Butters announced that Lightning forward prospect Mitch Fadden would be returned to his Lethbridge junior team, Butters announced that defenseman Jeff May has been signed to an Amateur Tryout contract. May, a teammate of Fadden at Lethbridge, completed his final junior campaign last spring as a free agent. May, a 2005 5th round selection of the Detroit Red Wings, was unable to come to contractual terms with the club and was a free agent invitee to Tampa's Traverse City prospects camp. His play on the TC blueline earned him an invitation to Norfolk's training camp.
"Jeff May had a good training camp," said Butters. "He is a good puck mover and has great aptitude for the game. We look forward to seeing him develop into a potential NHL prospect."
May, a 6-foot-2, 200-pound defenseman from Richmond, British Columbia, will be making his professional debut. Last season, May ranked fifth in assists and twelfth in scoring among WHL defenseman. In 54 games between the Lethbridge Hurricanes and Prince Albert Raiders, May netted four goals and 40 assists.
The Fargo Force have announced they have selected Tampa's 2008 6th round pick Luke Witkowski to join the roster of the USHL's newest team for the 2008-09 season. The 6'2", 200 lbs. defenseman has signed a letter of intent with Western Michigan University of the CCHA having deferred enrollment until the 2009-10 season. Witkowski became a free agent in May after the Ohio Junior Blue Jackets of the USHL ceased operations for the 2008-09 season after just two years.
Witkowski, a big blueliner known for his skating agility and speed, will be coached in Fargo by former University of North Dakota head coach Dean Blais who led the Fighting Sioux to two NCAA national championships over the course of a decade at the helm. Blais, known for his up-tempo offensive style, seems to be a good fit for Witkowski's offensive potential. Blais also coached Bolt prospect Matt Smaby and recent Lightning signee Brandon Bochenski during his tenure at UND.
The Norfolk Admirals have announced the signing of Bracken Kearns and former Lightning 2003 draft pick Jay Rosehill to standard AHL player contracts. Kearns, a center, was re-signed after playing with the Admirals last year under a similar AHL contract. Rosehill, a defenseman turned left wing, also played for the Admirals last season as a Tampa prospect under a three-way NHL contract.