Barry Melrose is gone but not forgotten.
Four weeks after being fired as coach of the Tampa Bay Lightning, Melrose is engaged in a war of words with his former employer. Accusations have been made, denials have been issued and insults are flying. The drama hasn't been this wicked since the last episode of … well … Melrose Place.
In their own words:
"They approached me. I couldn't wait to say yes.… You don't win by accident. You don't lose by accident. There are reasons certain teams win all the time, and there's a reason certain teams lose all the time." — Melrose, after being named Lightning coach (Associated Press).
"I'd much rather have people in charge who care, than people in charge who don't care." — Melrose, when asked how he would feel working for hands-on owners (Associated Press).
"I think it's wonderful. I think it's a great opportunity for Barry. He's a tremendous coach, and he's a players' coach.... He'll do a tremendous job." — Wayne Gretzky, who played for the Los Angeles Kings in 1993 when Melrose was the team's coach (Associated Press).
"We're hoping Steven Stamkos never plays another world junior game in his life, let's put it that way." — Melrose, discussing the addition of the No. 1 draft pick to his roster (Associated Press).
October "We're a skilled team with lots of skilled forwards, but we're not competing hard enough. When we get beat, that's why we get beat." — Melrose, discussing his team's poor start. The Lightning lost six of their first seven games (Associated Press).
"Steven is getting his chances. He's hit posts, he's made nice plays. He's playing better every game. Five-on-five, he's been excellent. Defensively, he's very conscientious." — Melrose, assessing Stamkos's performance (Hockey Night in Canada Radio).
"I just need a break." — Melrose, after walking out on a team practice (Edmonton Journal).
"It's not just the wins and losses. It's philosophically where we're going, where we're at today, tomorrow, three months, six months [from now]. I was not happy with the direction of our hockey club and I have to take as much responsibility as anybody." — Lightning GM Brian Lawton, hours after firing Melrose. The coach was behind the bench for just 16 games. The team had a 5-7-4 record during that time (Associated Press).
"I think the players didn't want to play for me. You don't have to be Kreskin to figure that out. I demand players play hard and play with passion and courage. If you don't do that, I let you know. I'm not a guy that sings Kumbaya around the fire. I let you know if I'm not happy with you. — Melrose, speculating on what went wrong (Hockey Night in Canada).
"Steve Stamkos is not ready for the NHL. [He] is going to be a good player, right now he's just not strong enough physically to play against defencemen that are six-foot-three and can skate as good as him. I think he's a minus 10 or 11… he just can't check in his own end well enough [right now]." — Melrose, assessing the celebrated rookie's performance (The Fan 590).
"I had guys in Tampa who wanted to run the team and I wouldn't let them. I was hired to coach, and I coached. I wasn't playing the right guys, I was playing certain guys too much, I wasn't playing other guys enough. Every day was a constant battle. Finally, the guys in charge decided they wanted to coach and they got rid of me. That's what it comes down to." — Melrose, reflecting on his dismissal (The Fan 590).
"I told Barry Melrose about five or six things in the whole eight weeks I was there and he didn't listen to one. Maybe Barry should have listened every once in a while, because he lost the team fast. Go ask the players. Don't sit here and ask me." — Len Barrie, part owner of the Lightning, responding to Melrose's comments (XM Radio).
"I hope Tampa Bay doesn't win a game in the next year." — Melrose, showing a magnanimous spirit (The Fan 590).
"He got fired, it's a tough situation … he's frustrated, but he should, you know, sometimes stop talking." — Lightning captain Vincent Lecavalier offering his former coach some unsolicited advice (Associated Press).