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Melrose's place? Tampa Bay says it's the unemployment line

November 14, 2008 |  7:55 pm

Barry Melrose, with Rick Tocchet in the background, in September.

Barry Melrose had finally found a place where the mullet was still in style when he went off to Florida as the Tampa Bay Lightning's coach last June. Well, Melrose didn't stick around long enough to let his hair grow out, as he was fired today by the Lightning after 16 games.

The punch line? Rick Tocchet was elevated to interim coach. Yes, the same Rick Tocchet who is still serving a two-year probation after pleading guilty in a gambling investigation into a sports betting ring in 2007.

For Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon fans, the connection goes like this:

Bacon starred with Matt Dillon in "Wild Things." Dillon starred with Janet Jones in "The Flamingo Kid." Jones became Janet Gretzky and allegedly booked bets with Tocchet, then an assistant coach with the Phoenix Coyotes. Tocchet was Melrose's assistant coach.

Melrose walked away from ESPN (three years after ESPN walked away from the NHL), ending a 12-year career as an analyst. That followed two-plus years as the Kings' head coach, taking them to the 1993 Stanley Cup finals. The Kings won the first game against the Montreal Canadiens and were leading by a goal in Game Two when ... ah, everyone knows the rest.

Still, Marty McSorley's illegal stick was the high-water mark in Melrose's coaching career. Grading on that curve, he has a 45-77-16 (12 ties, four overtime losses) record since that moment.

So what will Barry do now? Odds are, he will try to find Versus, just like those with TV remotes.

--Chris Foster

Photo: Barry Melrose, with Rick Tocchet in the background, in September. Credit: Mike Carlson / AP.