Even though NHL teams are on break because of the Olympics, the Lightning have been busy making changes in the coaching staff. Wes Walz has been replaced by Jim Johnson as an assistant coach with Tampa Bay and Walz was offering the head coaching job at Norfolk.
Walz refused the head coaching job at Norfolk and has been fired, so where does that leave the Admirals in all of this turmoil? They are in the process of fighting for a playoff spot as well and now they find themselves "head coachless" and will be looking for their third head coach of the season. What does this say to prospective coaches out there that may be offered the Ads job? Don't get too comfortable, you could be gone at any minute? That's not a good way to offer stability at the minor league level.
So, the question becomes what does that say about the confidence, or lack of, that the Bolts have in Rick Tocchet? Is the writing on the wall and his days are numbered? Will he survive the rest of the season or will he get canned in the middle of the upcoming playoff drive?
For me, the answer to the first question is yes, I do believe his days are numbered in Tampa. And I think he knows it as well. For the second question, the answer may be a bit more muddled. I think that changing the head coach at this point in the season would not be beneficial to the team. It would mean a new coach would need to implement a new system to the team AND keep them in the playoff hunt. I'm not going to say impossible, but just about damn near. Implementing a new system is for training camp, not the middle of a playoff race. And part of the answer may also lie in the way Tocchet handles this unexpected change and how he incorporates Jim Johnson into the team. And what about Jim Johnson? How will his presence at this late date be of any benefit?
Is there a plan? If so, is it to keep the current system intact for the playoff run? Then wouldn't it make more sense to keep the coach that's been using it? Or perhaps it's to wait and see if the Bolts fall out of the race and back into a lottery position. Pardon the question, but are all bets off then? If Tampa Bay does not at least stay within striking distance of the eighth playoff spot, the change could very well come before the end of the season.
And what about general manager Brian Lawton? His contract is up at the end of the season. Is he merely cutting his losses and trying to save his own job or does he honestly believe that this change is in the best interests of the Lightning and the drive for the playoffs that they find themselves in?
This also begs the question, what does new owner Jeff Vinik think? Even though he is not OFFICIAL yet, did he give his blessing for Lawton to make the coaching move or was it all on Lawton's shoulders? You would like to think there was some communication between the owner and general manager, even if it isn't an official relationship yet. Is Lawton now the new owner's hatchetman or is he honestly trying to improve the team?
21 games to go.
So many questions. So little time to answer them.