Fired after just 16 games in charge of the Tamba Bay Lightning, Barry Melrose charged ownership with interference during a Toronto radio interview Tuesday, adding “I hope Tampa Bay doesn’t win a game in the next year.” Yesterday, Bolts owner Len Barrie fired back in a chat with the St. Pete Times’ Damien Christodero, insisting “how he prepared for this job was total negligence.”
“I knew we were in trouble when we went to Prague,” Barrie said Wednesday of the season-opening trip with the Rangers, “and Barry wanted to play the (defensive) left wing lock.”
It was the latest salvo in the war of words between Melrose and the team. Barrie said he wants it to stop but added, “I wanted to respond for our organization and our guys.”
Especially, he said, for rookie Steven Stamkos (above), whom Melrose believes is not NHL ready.
“He didn’t want Steven on this team from day one, and it was evident how he played him,” Barrie said. “Everyone knows this kid is a star player.”
Barrie said he never told Melrose to play Stamkos certain minutes. “But I did say, ‘Why not try Steven Stamkos on the point?’ The kid’s done it (in juniors) and played well back there.”
Stamkos has played there under coach Rick Tocchet.
About the Lightning’s 4-0 loss to the Panthers the day after Melrose walked out of practice and three days before his Nov. 14 firing, Barrie said, “That was the final nail in the coffin. He went at guys personally and he challenged the team, which is fine. Coaches have to do that. But you have to have guys respond.”