Coaching Changes in Tampa

According to TSN, the Tampa Bay Lightning have replaced assistant coach Wes Waltz with the Jim Johnson, who up until yesterday, was the head coach of the Bolts' minor league affiliate in Norfolk.

This may not seem like big news, but according to Hockey Independent contributor WB Philp, this could be a sign of bigger changes to come in the Tampa Bay organization. The bigger story in all of this is that according to sources, head coach Rick Tocchet was not consultant when GM Brian Lawton decided to make the move, and was informed of the decision on Tuesday afternoon.

As compensation, Walz was offered the head coach position with the Norfolk Admirals, the job that Johnson was being promoted from. Walz understandably turned down the seemingly shallow offer. According to Philp, ''the way they handled the Walz situation smells of financial self preservation. They offered him the Norfolk head coaching job or else… and Walz walked away from the organization. Walz is ready for an NHL head coaching job and probably didn’t want to be part of a minor league affiliate that has had three coaches this year.''

The idea is that the move is part of some bigger plan to rid themselves of Rick Tocchet without outwardly firing them, as the Bolts are already on the hook for the salaries of Tocchet, former coach Barry Melrose, and which ever coach they choose to replace him, presumably Jim Johnson. If Tocchet were to resign from his position, the Lighting wouldn't have to pay the rest of his salary.

The decision to seemingly scapegoat Tocchet comes at an odd time, as despite a 3 game losing streak, the Bolts sit in 9th spot in the East, only a point behind Montreal for the 8th and final playoff spot. With a 26-24-11 record through 61 games and 63 points in the bank, the Lightning are far from eliminated from playoff contention.

Then again, there have been coaches fired under weirder circumstances in the past.

Stay tuned as this story develops.