The firing of Tampa Bay Coach Barry Melrose is exploding throughout the hockey blogosphere. To Los Angeles Kings fans, Barry Melrose remains a touchy subject. After all… this is the rookie coach that took a team who finished 3rd in the Smythe (!) Division all the way to the Stanley Cup finals. But he is also looked at as the coach that dismantled that team just as quickly.
Most people forget that Wayne Gretzky only played half the season in 1992-1993, sitting out the first 36 games with a back injury. (He still had 65 points in 45 games!) Luc Robitaille had 125 points that year… and wasn’t even in the top 5 for scoring.
Barry Melrose took a group of superstars, past their prime superstars and complete scrubs all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals.
The world of between period hockey coverage before Heidi Androl and Patrick O’Neal.
Melrose brought Tony Robbins into the locker room for motivational speeches throughout the season. He sported a mullet unapologetically. And during Game 1 of the 1993 playoff series versus the Toronto Maple Leafs, he poked fun of opposing coach Pat Burns’ weight by puffing out his cheeks. For a city that prides itself on style over substance… Melrose was a gift from the Hockey Gods.
But then, the magical 1992-1993 season ended. And reality set it. Barry Melrose was not a very good coach. Skill players like Robitaille and Tomas Sandstrom were traded away for the type of players that Melrose loved… hard-working grinders. Well, in an NHL that still had multiple 100 point scorers in a season… hard-working grinders only got you so far. The Kings didn’t make it back to the playoffs with Melrose as coach and he was fired near the end of the 1994-1995 season.
It doesn’t surprise me that Barry Melrose didn’t work as the Tampa Bay Lightning coach. That team has way too many skill players to be a Barry Melrose team. And from his post-firing interviews, Melrose doesn’t seem all too sad to be leaving. And besides, he is much better as an analyst than he will ever be as a coach.