First off, 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. A swift, decisive break and a clean slate for the new guy.
I think that Lawton's firing is more (maybe "more" is not the right word?) deserved; I’ll give him credit, he made some good moves (Signing Niitty, picking Nate off wavers from the Isles, the Purcell trade) but he also made some real bonehead ones (the Walker contract, the Tanguay signing--although honesty compels me to call it 20/20 hindsight on that particular move because lots of people, me included, thought Tangs would be a good fit with Vinny). The most obvious bad move being that power play (and not the one ON the ice) he made by firing Wes Walz, compounded by the fact that he did not consult with the head coach, and the timing of it seemed, um, shall we say, questionable? at best. The team was only 1 point out of the playoffs at that point and not that the firing of Walz was the ONLY factor, but after the whole thing went public, the team's play went in the crapper. Not only the Bolts, but Norfolk's as well. I'm sure the folks that follow the Ads were NOT happy either. Gee thanks Lawton for ruining not one but TWO teams shot at the playoffs in their respective leagues.
Then there was the revelation from Lawton (I think on a radio interview on Monday) that he "never got to pick who he wanted as head coach" or some such crud. Apparently he didn't have the authority to fire Tocchet this season or he would have already done so. And the further revelation that Lawton apparently had a trade in place with Minnesota at the trade deadline: Zeke + 2 picks for….....wait for it….....…for........ Derek Boogaard? Wait, WHAT? Yeah, Lawton, trade one of your (OUR) best faceoff men for that cretin? And the deal fell through only because one of the picks agreed on was one the Bolts did not have?? By the time he could revise the trade, the deadline had passed. This man is NOT general manager material. He just strikes me as too, I dunno, "greasy"? And since grease burns really well, he’s burned quite a few bridges along the way.
Tocchet is not without blame and I wouldn't have given him a free pass either, but his childish reaction to that coaching change was just the final nail in his coffin. His best reaction probably should have been "I'm going to be the adult here" and accept Jim Johnson for what he could have added to the team. We'll never know what that would have been because he never got the chance to show what he could bring to the table. I understand Tocchet standing up for his ideals and all and I do admire him for it, but discretion should have been the better part of valor. My daddy always told me to "pick your battles carefully" and that was one he could not win.
And the same in-game mistakes were made all season (by the players) that made me wonder if Tocchet's message was getting through or if there was ever a message to begin with. He did wonders for Downs, so he gets a plus for that. But I'm of the opinion (as anyone that has heard me rant about it this season knows) that he totally misused Vinny and Bugsy; maybe Hedman too. He wanted a team full of grinders and "puck mutts". Yes, every team needs a few of those of players, but normally a puck mutt ain't gonna score you 50 goals. Or 40. Or even 30. And what the heck was with the defense? I know Walker and Ohlie aren't speed demons nor were they expected to contribute 30 goals or anything like that, but there was just mismanagement of the players at the coaching level too. That one’s on Rick Wilson for the defense.
Now, this is all just rehashing what has already been hashed. 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 Adam Oates (or does Oates even WANT to stay, since he originally came to Tampa as a favor to Tocchet?), Cap Raeder or Rick Wilson. I just hope they keep Nigel Kirwan as Video Coach and the training/equipment staff. No reason for them to suffer for everybody else’s stupidity. And at the NHL level, I'm not sure Jim Johnson could be trusted by the players at this point 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 where he did a spot on job of turning that franchise around, at least in the short term.
Personally? 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.