Lightning hire Melrose as new head coach

Updated: June 23, 2008, 8:53 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

ESPN analyst Barry Melrose will be introduced as the Tampa Bay Lightning's new head coach at a news conference Tuesday.

Melrose has been an ESPN analyst full time since 1996. He had previously worked as a studio analyst for ESPN's Emmy Award-winning 1994 Stanley Cup playoff coverage and for ESPN and ESPN2 during the 1995 Stanley Cup playoffs.

Melrose was the head coach of the Los Angeles Kings from 1992 to '95. In his debut season, his team advanced to the Stanley Cup finals for the first time in franchise history.

Melrose began his coaching career in 1987 when he led the Medicine Hat Tigers to the WHL's Memorial Cup Title. He also coached the Seattle Thunderbirds for the 1988-89 season and the Adirondack Red Wings of the American Hockey League for three seasons (1989-92). Melrose guided the Red Wings to the Calder Cup championship in 1991. He also served as the team's general manager during his final two seasons.

The Arizona Republic reported on Monday that Phoenix Coyotes assistant Rick Tocchet will not return to the team but will join Melrose's staff in Tampa. Tocchet, 44, played 18 seasons in the NHL but as a coach was involved in a gambling investigation and left the team for two years.

Monday, the primary investors in a group buying the Lightning said they have no intention of moving the team and will be "shockingly aggressive" in trying to improve the club that finished last in the NHL last season.

Hello, Old Friend

The mullet's held up well over the years. Question is, has Barry Melrose stood the test of time now that he's ready to be reintroduced to NHL coaching circles? A look at the league the last time he coached:

The NHL in 1994-95
Teams 26
Schedule 48 games
(lockout shortened)
Leading scorer Jaromir Jagr (70 pts)
Hart Trophy Eric Lindros
Calder Trophy Peter Forsberg
Best record Red Wings
Stanley Cup winner Devils
Vincent Lecavalier 14 years old

Monday's news conference was held to introduce the remaining members of the ownership group led by Oren Koules, a Hollywood producer, and Len Barrie, a one-time NHL player who's now a real estate developer in Canada.

Hollywood producer Mark Burg, attorney and investment banker Russell Belinsky, advertising executive Jordan Zimmerman, orthopedic surgeon Dr. Richard C. Lehman and Tampa Bay area-based business executives Irwin Novack and Craig Sher are the partners.

Last week, the NHL board of governors unanimously approved the sale to Koules' OK Hockey, which agreed to pay $206 million for the team, the leasehold rights to the St. Pete Times Forum and about 5.5 acres of land adjacent to the downtown arena.

The sale is expected to be finalized by the end of the month.

The Lightning have been owned since 1999 by Palace Sports & Entertainment, a group led by Detroit Pistons owner Bill Davidson, which helped transform them from a last-place team into the 2004 Stanley Cup champions.

Koules vowed the team will be "staggeringly active" in free agency to acquire players to put around No. 1 draft pick Steve Stamkos and help the Lightning get back on track in a hurry.

"We're not buying something that's broke," Barrie said. "It just needs to be tweaked."

Barrie is confident the Lightning can be competitive despite a budget that won't allow them to spend as much as some other teams.

"If you make good hockey decisions, it isn't always the team that spends the most money. That's been proven over and over again," Barrie said.

"Everyone always comes up and says we want to be like the Detroit Red Wings. We're not going to say that. … Who we want to be is the Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers, who were last-place teams that turned it around really quickly with smart or shrewd moves, some luck in the draft and the goalie stepping up," he said.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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