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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Lightning Fire Head Coach Tocchet, GM Lawton

The Tampa Bay Lightning announced on Monday that they have fired head coach Rick Tocchet and general manager Brian Lawton after missing the playoffs for the third straight year. Tocchet took over as head coach of the Lightning in November 2008 after then coach Barry Melrose was fired. Lawton, whose contract was up at the end of June, was hired by the team in July 2008 and took over as general manager in October 2008. Despite the controversial hire of Tocchet as head coach, he has been largely credited with improving the play of phenom Steven Stamkos, who tied Sidney Crosby for the Rocket Richard Trophy this past season with 51 goals. The Lightning went 53-69-12 under Tocchet, who still had one more year remaining on a two-year deal. No replacements for Tocchet or Lawton have been named yet, but assistant general manager Tom Kurvers will assume responsibility for hockey operations until a new general manager is hired. I can't say I didn't see these moves coming, as new team owner Jeff Vinik needs to clean up the mess that previous owners Oren Koules and Len Barrie made of the the team. Lawton really messed up the team during the summer of 2008 when he signed a glut of free agent forwards and neglected the defense after trading away Dan Boyle, resulting in a last place finish in the league. More attention was paid to the defense last summer, but the additions of Mattias Ohlund, Matt Walker, and Kurtis Foster did not help the team much in the standings. Despite great seasons from forwards Steven Stamkos, Martin St. Louis, and Steve Downie, the Lightning's offense was disappointing at best, with Vincent Lecavalier and newcomer Alex Tanguay struggling to score at times. Tocchet was not a bad coach for the team and really brought out the best in Stamkos, but with team ownership looking for change, he was bound to get fired. Hopefully Vinik will be able to find a general manager who can turn the team around quickly and give the fans in Tampa Bay something to cheer for again.

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