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Rick Tocchet -- Head Coach of the Tampa Bay Lightning

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Lets forget the Melrose incursion ever happened, ok?

Lets try to erase from memory the entire European Vacation for that matter...  Call it the Lightning's official Lost Weekend.  No on-ice direction, no training regimen, no pre-season workouts, just scrimmages.

Lost. 

Rick Tocchet took over the Lightning in November (after the Bolts were found face down in a gutter with their wallet stolen) and had to implement a system on the fly.  Had to have a mid-season training camp to try to condition his squad, then had his goaltender and defensive unit succumb to injuries...

That, and he found out he has a knack for not being able to win overtime contests or shoot-outs.

All while lacking a contract to serve in the role of Head Coach officially.  That ended Monday as Rick signed a three year deal with the Lightning.  He will be the guy behind the bench come training camp in September, and the 2009-10 campaign.

But will the team be in better condition for the marathon of an NHL season?  I'm not talking player makeup, Rick's opinion might count in discussions with the Lightning brain trust, but it's not his job to make player moves.  No, his job is to make sure the players perform.  His job is to make sure they can run that race from October thru the end the of the season - be April, May, or June. 

One thing that has reverberated around the blogosphere of late is that Tocchet remains as rookie Head Coach.  He had never before held the title until this past season.  Just for the sake of saying so, John Tortorella had only coached four games total under the Interim tag in 1999-2000 before being given the keys to the Lightning in 2001 after Steve Ludzik's dismissal.

Where things go from here won't be clear until the smoke from the off season clears and camp starts to get underway...  And while I'm confident that Tocchet's leadership will help the team improve next season...  I'm still wary of what is in store for this offseason.