There has been uncertainty and innuendo this morning when online reports started to surface that Tampa Bay head coach Rick Tocchet was about to be dismissed by the club. With the resumption of team practices today, there would be no better last-chance changes to make regarding the club's coaching makeup this season..
And a change does seem to be playing out, but it's not Rick Tocchet getting his walking papers.
The official news has not yet broken as of this posting, and there has been no team press release about the change, but it seems to be that assistant coach Wes Walz may be moving to the Norfolk Admirals in one capacity or another (head coach seems to be the position).
The rumor that Lyle Richardson originally reported had Norfolk's current head coach (who himself was only recently named to the position) Jim Johnson coming to Tampa. From reports, Johnson still would be heading to the Lightning, but to replace Walz on the coaching staff.
UPDATE 4:21 PM EST: It's official now thatJim Johnson is promoted to Tampa Bay to serve the Lightning as assistant coach. Wes Walz has not yet accepted the new position as Norfolk head coach. We've got more below the fold, so please read on.
Erik Erlendsson has reported via Twitter that the decision to replace Walz was from Brian Lawton and Head Coach Rick Tocchet was not consulted over this, and was told of the pending moon at noon on Tuesday. There were also rumblings via Bob MacKenzie of TSN that Tocchet was not happy about this move whatsoever.
That unhappiness news is what probably fostered any rumors that made it to Richardson's ear this morning, or was the basis of such. How professionally Tocchet deals with this (realizing it's business, it's not personal) may determine how far the Bolts go the remainder of the season, and potentially his future with the team.
UPDATE #2: A team press release just came over the wire announcing formally that Walz has been relieved of his duties with the club, and has declined the head coaching job with teh Norfolk Admirals.