PITTSBURGH-One of the worst kept secrets in hockey is expected to become public in the next few days as Barry Melrose returns from TV exile to take over the coaching reins of the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Melrose, who last coached in the NHL with the Los Angeles Kings 13 years ago, is expected to get the Tampa job, replacing John Tortorella, who has yet to be replaced or reassigned.
It's believed new Tampa owner Oren Koules is the driving force behind the hiring of Melrose, who led the Los Angeles Kings to the the 1993 Stanley Cup final against Montreal. (Ed. Note: Koules and fellow investor Len Barrie, a former NHLer, won't officially take over the team until June 18th board of governors meeting). In recent years, the Kelvington, Sask. native has been a featured analyst on ESPN.
Koules, once partnered with former Columbus president Doug MacLean to buy the Lightning before that collaboration broke up, is looking for a marquee name to help sell and market the club in central Florida. Tampa, which won the 2004 Stanley Cup, missed the playoffs this year.
Melrose's hiring will surprise many NHL watchers, as will his salary, expected to be about $2 million per season. Melrose was a defenceman in the Maple Leafs organization from 1980-83, and coached the Medicine Hat Tigers to the 1988 Memorial Cup.
The Lightning traded away Brad Richards late last season, but still have stars Vinny Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis and Dan Boyle under contract. The Bolts own the No. 1 pick in next month's NHL entry draft and are expected to select Sarnia junior forward Steven Stamkos.
Melrose's last two seasons with L.A. saw the club finish out of post-season play. Since ESPN lost rights to broadcast NHL games, Melrose has been an analyst on ESPN and a frequent contributor to ESPN.com.
A number of media commentators are raising a fuss over the reluctance of Pittsburgh Penguins owner Mario Lemieux to comment publicly on his team's performance in this year's playoffs.
Some have claimed Lemieux hasn't spoken publicly since March, 2007, but he actually gave an interview to The Star on April 16 after the Penguins eliminated the Ottawa Senators. Since then, Lemieux has declined to be interviewed, citing his belief that the focus should be on his team and star centre Sidney Crosby.