PASS THE MIKE: Tampa Bay struggles for success in season

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It only took 16 games for the Tampa Bay Lightning to give coach Barry Melrose the axe. At the time of his dismissal, the Lightning posted an underachieving record of 5-7-4.

Tampa Bay embarked on a summer spending spree before the NFL season began, inking veteran forwards Ryan Malone, Adam Hall, Mark Recchi, Gary Roberts and Radim Vrbata. Offense wasn’t expected to be an issue, especially with superstar forward Martin St. Louis and center Vincent Lecavalier on the roster. The question marks were focused on the makeshift Lightning defense.

Yet, coming into this week, Tampa Bay scored a league-worst average of 2.06 goals per game. The defense has been fine, while the offense has struggled. Who would have thought the No.1 draft pick Steven Stamkos would only have two goals?

The blame placed on Melrose, the same Melrose who led the Los Angeles Kings to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1993, was unfair, considering the amount of time he was given to make the Tampa Bay experiment work. Melrose’s hard-nosed, old-fashioned coaching style apparently didn’t sit well with some players and an antsy ownership. Melrose preached responsibility and accountability to a room full of millionaire, prima-donna veterans who weren’t coming to compete every night.

Melrose was replaced by Rick Tocchet, a well-respected former player who was also an assistant coach under the helm of Wayne Gretzky in Phoenix. In 2006, Tocchet was charged with fraud, gambling on football and money laundering. He was sentenced to probation in 2007 after pleading guilty and returned to the NHL in 2008.

D swap in ‘Big D’

What was behind the trade of defensemen between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Dallas Stars? The Penguins acquired former all-star Philippe Boucher from the Stars in exchange for 36-year old Daryl Sydor. Sydor returns to Dallas and brings a steady game to the blue line, but Boucher has established himself as one of the game’s most underrated offensive defenseman.

The Stars are struggling and sit in last place in its division, and this deal could have been done to send a message to the locker room that no one is safe from being dealt.

Early, I know, but…

Can we predict the Stanley Cup finals based upon the early league leaders in the standings? Will the San Jose Sharks take on the New York Rangers, or will we see a rematch from last year’s final of the Detroit Red Wings versus the Pittsburgh Penguins? Would it be too crazy to even consider the Minnesota Wild and the Washington Capitals as contenders?

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