Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Coaching Watch: There's Blood in the Water

Well, consider this a follow-up to the post about the Flyers/Sabres debacle from October 17, 2006.

It is clear early this 2006-2007 season that several teams widely chosen to compete are playing well below both their talent level and expectations. Two teams in the Eats that stand out for me are the Philadelphia Flyers, and the Tampa Bay Lightning. We look now at each situation.

John Tortorella - Tampa Bay Lightning:

The Lightning are playing, well, terrible. Their big stars, especially Lecavalier and St. Louis, appear disinterested, and the team is .

John Tortorella, the Tampa coach, is known for his in-your-face style and is not afraid to bench his players, including his stars. While this is a style that may work in the short-term, it will ultimately result in your players tuning you out. If the Lightning play of late last season and the start of this season is any indication, the players have long ago decided that 'Loud John' is no longer worth listening to.

As is always the case, especially with their big three locked up to such long-term contracts, the coach will get thrown under the bus. Unless the lightning turn it around in the next two weeks, Tortorella will be gone.

Ken Hitchcock - Philadelphia Flyers:

Much the same as Tortorella, coach 'Hitch' tends to tell it like it is and is known to use not-so-gentle prods to encourage his players. Consider the brewing conflict between Hitchcock and backup goaltender Robert Esche, who stated yesterday that Hitchcock had an empty head ^. This is par for the course lately for Hitchcock, and if the brutal start to the season is any indication, the players are sick of his games. Of course, one could hardly lay all of the blame at Hithcock's feet. The players are floating badly out there, showing no jump and no life. Since when does a team get taken apart 9-1 and not even try to throw a few momentum changing bodychecks, or heaven forbid, start a fight? And really, does anyone believe the pylons like Rathje and Hatcher are NHL quality defensemen anymore? Bobby Clarke can be blamed for assembling a team that appears to have been built for 2003, and the contrast between this team and the 2006 Sabres could not have been clearer.

There is plenty of blame to go around here, from floating players, to poor management to innefective coaching, but since Clarke and Flyers owner Ed Snider are tight, expect Hitchcock to get the can tied to him unless the team miraculously turns it around.

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