Public Opinion: What fans have to say about Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik's early moves

At the end of last season, John did a poll asking people what they thought of Rick Tocchet as an interim coach. The results were rather favorable. I had my doubts at the time (see the comments), but the people had spoken.

A year later, I threw the quick question out there publicly of what people thought of the Brian Lawton and Rick Tocchet firings for fans to answer, and here are some of the responses that people shared. (Thanks to everyone who participated. Please feel free to leave you opinion in the comments below.)

VanCity Canuck:

The circus and all its monkeys have officially left the building.

Tina R.:

I'm not surprised at all. I expected as much, with a new owner coming in that he would want his own people to be put in place. What did surprise me is the speed with which it happened. But it was the best way to do things. Swift, decisive break and a clean slate for the new guy.

I'm not sure I can add anything new or refreshing that hasn't already been said by everyone else. I'm also not so sure the carnage is over either. It remains to be seen if the new coach wants to keep Oates (or does Oates even WANT to stay, since he originally came to Tampa as a favor to Tocchet?), Raeder or Wilson. I just hope they keep Nigel Kirwan and the training staff. No reason for them to suffer for the others' stupidity. I'm not sure Jim Johnson could be trusted by the players because he was looked at by Tocchet as a "Lawton stooge". Not sure that's fair, but still. I think Johnson is best left (at least for now) in Norfolk.

I'm just looking forward to some peace and quiet with the Lightning next season. A little bit o' calm after the circus left town.

Ryan M. (Silver Seven):

I think replacing Lawton is the right move, as he's never seemed the most shrewd of GMs. I think back to last year's draft when he got used Twitter to announce to the world that he was looking to acquire another high draft pick. Every 15 minutes he'd update everyone of his unsuccessful endeavour, something that in my mind continually impeded any negotiations. The result? A 3rd-round pick and the 32nd-overall pick for Detroit's 1st-rounder, 29th overall. The Red Wings got the guy they wanted (Landon Ferraro) and a decent player in Andrej Nestrasil so the Lightning could move up only three spots. That's some bizarre management tactics.

Tocchet I don't feel as strongly about. Although I disliked his handling of the goaltending situation, moving Kurtis Foster to wing for large parts of the season was genius. I don't think he's the right coach for the Lightning going forward, but I also don't think he was given the right players to work with. Having what seemed like two centres for every winger did not work in his favour.

(More reaction after the break.)

Katerina B.:

Wins I give credit to Tocchet for developing Steve Downie and Steven Stamkos. Though, I can't forgive him the way he treated Vincent Lecavalier. I'm not saying that he is solely responsible for Vinny's decline in scoring, yet I feel that he had definitely some impact on it. And as I said on the Raw Charge before... the way he's been mixing up the lines constantly, that is what I never understood and never will.

So, I'm more than positive about the firing of Tocchet. As to Lawton... He might seem like a good guy, but I've never really trusted him and I believe he was trying to trade Vinny last year. One thing I can't accept. For me, he looked pretty sneaky and never gained my trust. So once again, more than positive about this too.

DontTradeVinny (Don't Trade Vinny):

If Steve Yzerman ends up involved in this team in any way, I will personally buy a plane ticket to Tampa, and buy Jeff Vinik a drink.

Dani M.:

I feel that Lawton's firing was imminent and necessary, but Tocchet's questionable. Most of the success of Stamkos and Downie can be directly credited to Tocchet. We have never had such a close knit group and I would go as far as saying that is Tocchet`s doing, as well. I am incredibly impressed with Vinik, though, for addressing the fans directly by a letter on the Lightning website. We've never had an owner so interested in this team and keeping its fans happy.

Brian O.:

My sentiments are the same, getting rid of Lawton was absolutely necessary and I guess to move past the Cowboy Error...err Era, then Tocchet had to go too. I am of the opinion though that it should have been up to the new CEO and/or GM to decide Rick's fate. Steve Downie's progress this year is one of the few great stories of the season and that is... See more a direct effect of Tocchet. Now the head coach has to do a lot more then develop one player, but I thought Rick was, and still is, a great young coach and he did what he could with the personnel that he was given. It'll be truly sad if they pass on an upcoming coach like Tocchet in favor of a re-tread like Hitchcock or someone of the like.

A clean slate is certainly welcome though let's just hope that this time it turns out better! Go Bolts!

George R.  (via Facebook):

I hope it's not deja vu all over again, with a new coach wanting to make wholesale changes and bring in "his" players. Thus, putting the playoffs further down the road while the team develops. The Bolts need to make some strides fast, or they will lose more fans. Hopefully Mr. Vinik chooses wisely.

Kevin C.  (via Facebook):

What this team needs now is experienced, veteran leadership from the CEO position on down. Vinik should bring in real hockey people to run this team. If he can bring stability and experience to the front office and bench we should see further improvement. The new guys need to spend wisely in free agency and be ready to move Vinny if the opportunity arises.A priority should be looking ahead to the finances needed to re-sign Stamkos and Martin St. Louis.

Could we move Vinny for a real starting goaltender? That contract is going to make it tough.

The front office guys have to have the NHL knowledge to fill the holes in our roster and protect the future assets of this franchise at the same time. This is not going to be an easy task- we've got some big holes.

Chad S. (Bolts Prospects):

I think letting go of Lawton and Tocchet was the right move in this situation. You can look at the individuals and argue that both have reasons to remain, but it doesn't matter -- the big picture reigns in this situation. Vinik has to build this organizational model at every level. I'm looking forward to not only stability, but prolonged stability in the organization. It will be refreshing to see things being done the right way - from the top right on down through Norfolk and hopefully an ECHL affiliate. That's the way successful, truly professional teams operate, and if there's anything that stands out on Vinik's resume, it's doing things thoroughly, professionally, and with success.

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