1 Press Conference Barry Melrose June 24, 2008 Introduction: Oren Koules: Hi, I'm Oren Koules, if you don't know, and I'm really happy to be here today. Couple quick things, we have Craig Sher, we talked about yesterday, one of our local partners. We're very excited that he could join us today and be part of this. I guess I'm just going to start right away by saying this is a move that we've been really excited about and I think we've done the greatest job in the world of keeping this secret, so with no further ado, I want to introduce Barry Melrose. Barry Melrose: Secrets from now on will be a lot better kept than this one. I'm just thrilled to be here, very excited about what's going on. I know, I've been reading the papers in the morning and, the thing is that these two guys sound too good to be true, the ownership group is too good to be true, they're too passionate that's how they are. They sweep you off your feet, they did the same thing with me. Their energy's contagious, they're going to be hands-on, but I would much rather have people in charge that care than people in charge that don't care, and I can guarantee you these two guys that are in charge care. A lot of stuff is going to happen. It's going to be very exciting, we've got a lot of work to do, we've got a lot of good things with the group right now, with the team right now. It's going to change a lot before opening night, but as far as I'm concerned, what I bring, I believe in effort, I believe in energy, I believe in speed, I believe in aggression, I believe in letting guys be creative, use their imagination. I give them a lot of freedom, all I ask in return is that they compete defensively and most people love playing for me. The guys that don't love playing for me usually you don't want being on your team anyway. So those are the type of guys that'll be here. When you walk in to the building and you see our team play, they're going to work their butts off, they're going to be very, very tough to play against, no one's going to like walking in to this building and playing against the Lightning. It's going to be very fun to watch, and I think when you leave the building you'll say, 'I enjoyed that. These guys play hard.' They'll feel they get their money's worth when they watch our team play. I think that's been a hallmark of my teams from when I started coaching and it's what I believe in and like I said, people respond to me, so I think the same thing will happen here in Tampa Bay. I guess we'll open the floor to questions. Question: Give us a timetable, the first contact, how things got done? BM: That's a Star Trek episode, isn't it? Actually it was a little bit like Star Trek. Really, what put these guys in touch with me is, both Oren [Koules] and Lennie [Len Barrie] are friends with guys that played for me, whether it was in the American League or in Junior. I actually have known Lennie since he's been 18 years old. He was playing junior hockey and I was coaching junior hockey in Western Canada. I think, sort of, the impression I get is what steered them toward me is all the players of mine that they talked to all said really good things about how I coached and everything. So I knew this group is trying to buy Tampa and going to buy Tampa because I watch what's going on all through the NHL. A friend of mine, who will be part of this organization you'll meet eventually, he approached me and said, 'Would you ever consider coming back to coaching?' and I said, yeah, I said I would love to. I miss it, I miss the passion, I miss the competition, and that sort of started the ball rolling, probably a couple months ago, Oren?
2 OK: Yep. BM: And so from that moment on it's been a roller coaster, as everything has been with these guys, the last couple months have been a roller coaster, and the same thing with me. They approached me and I couldn't wait to say yes. So it's been, basically everything's happened within two months with me. Question: After being away so long, not being behind the bench, why is now a good time to come back? BM: My kids' age it's south. I'd have a lot tougher time talking my wife into going to Edmonton, than going to Tampa. I wanted the challenge again. I wanted to find out if I could still do it. I miss it, I've missed it since I left. I miss the term I used is having a dog in the fight. I'm not a bystander, I've never been a bystander in my life and I hate being a guy on the outside looking in, I want to be on the inside again. So it's just, this group and this team has really rekindled my passion about getting back into coaching. It was the perfect time for me in my life right now with my family. Question: It doesn't hurt to have Lecavalier and Stamkos down the center BM: You're exactly right. We finished last, and the good news about coaching is I can only go up. I can only improve next year, so you guys can't say I went down. So no matter what happens, you can say, 'Melrose did a hell of a job last year!' But we do have a good group here, and an underrated group, and the group we have now won't be the group we have in October, but Vinny is, I think, one of the five best players in the world. Marty St. Louis his passion, his speed, his courage what a role model for Stamkos coming in, seeing Marty play the way he does. The defense is big, it needs some work, we've got some young defensemen that need to mature, but you look at the other defenses in the NHL, this defense is OK. We've got some good depth up front, other guys, and as I've been reading in the paper, our owners are going to be very aggressive in free agency, so it sounds very good. Question: You've been watching the Lightning from a television screen what have you noticed about the team and as you were watching it last season, what were your impressions? BM: I think what I want to change is, I want to become better defensively. A lot of moves were made at the deadline, obviously the goaltender's a key. I loved him [Mike Smith] when I watched him play last season. Everyone I've talked to loves him. He's a new-age goaltender, handles the puck very well. If anyone was watching the playoffs realizes that that's a very, very important part of the game now, is goaltenders handling the puck and moving it and helping their defense out with the forecheck. You know what? I think what happened here is just a group that lost their passion in the second part of the season and lost the fire in the second part of the season. When a team does that, that's why you win. You out-work other teams, you out-want other teams, and when you lose that fire and you lose that passion, it's very hard to compete in the NHL, and I think that's a little bit what happened to Tampa Bay in the latter parts of the season. Question: Oren and Len, did you zero in on Barry right away and say, 'This is the guy that we want? How many other people did you talk to? Take us through that process. OK: I think that we, we had a list internally, with three or four friends of people that are working with us. One of the things we really thought we needed was 20 guys going the same direction, positive thinking. I think that, when you talk to different people in the League, the talent's here. It's getting them all kind of pulling the same way and have the
3 fire and the passion. I think one of the things that Barry was talking about, talked about earlier was teams need to be more afraid and more respectful playing in our rink and I think that we lost a little bit of that last year. And I think if anyone knows, whether it be junior, whether it be American League, whether it be NHL, Barry Melrose teams, you know you're in a hockey game with them, and I think that's one of the things we thought was one of the most important things for us. Len Barrie: I made a phone call, and I've played against Barry's teams and they weren't fun to play against. I think he knocked my teeth out once, in Adirondack, his team BM: You were probably yapping too much! LB: Yeah, probably. I phoned Rob Blake and Barry coached Rob in L.A. and I said, 'What do you think about Barry Melrose?' and he starts to laugh and I'm like, 'Oh ----!' Whoops, I mean, shoot. He starts to laugh and so I let him finish and he goes, 'Len, Barry Melrose's the best coach I had in 17 years played, but the other thing? He was the best person I played for.' And that's what really excites me. I think we've got a good person first, and he'll be a good coach second, and I think in today's game, and what our organization wants to be about, is that. Question: Have you decided on assistants yet? BM: We're going to announce them later. OK: Now is later. BM: Now is later? [laughs] LB: We're still working on it. BM: Rick Tocchet is going to be one of the assistants. Wes Walz is going to be one of the assistants, and we're working on one other one. I'm very excited about this staff. I wanted someone who had just left the game, and Wes is perfect. His background with Minnesota, I don't agree with everything Minnesota does, but certainly their defensive style is as good as anybody in the NHL, so that's something that I certainly want around our group. Tocc [Tocchet] is a guy that, you know, Tocc played for me in L.A. and I want our players he's a symbol of how you should play the game. A guy that wasn't the most skilled guy in the world, but he's a borderline Hall of Famer. How hard he plays, his intensity, his work ethic, the price he paid, that's who I want our young players, like Stamkos, around. I want them around role models. I want them around guys that have done it. With our staff, when you're on this team, you look at us, we've been there. We've done it all. We've done the dirty jobs. We've done it as players, we've done it as coaches and I think that's important for young players, and this is going to become a younger team sooner than later. That's the people I wanted to surround our team with and the intensity, the intangibles, the fire, guys that hate to lose. When we lose, this isn't going to be a fun place to be. When you reporters walk in the dressing room, you'll feel an edge. You guys won't feel comfortable in there, the players won't feel comfortable in there. It's not going to be a pleasant place when we lose. And those are the type of people that I wanted surrounding me and around the guys on our team. Rick Tocchet and Wes Walz symbolize those type of players that I want our players to become. Question: What might you do differently now than you did your first go-round in the League and what kind of perspective have you gained from being away from the bench for so long? BM: Well, when we get to the Stanley Cup Finals, I'll be checking the sticks a lot closer [laughs]. Really, you know what? The game now is the closest the game has been to the way that I believe the game should be played in the last 10 years. The speed of it, the hooking and holding gone, the trapping defense is taken out somewhat, creative
4 players being able to be creative without being jumped on and hooked and held. The last years watching, I saw what worked, I saw what didn't work. I got a handle on the players in the NHL that I would love to have in our organization when deals are made. But I think just watching and watching successful teams and watching teams that work and watching teams that don't work, it reinforces what I believe in and how I coached and the way we're going to play here. You don't win by accident, you don't lose by accident. There's reasons certain teams win all the time, there's reasons certain teams lose all the time. I think, more so, the time away has just reinforced what I believe in and the way the game should be played, and the type of player that wins. You look at Detroit, you look at Pittsburgh, those teams win because they play hard, they've got some talent, they've got good goaltending and they love each other and play for each other. That's no secret to success. Question: Fans around tend to have long memories and they seem to remember a lot of comments that you had against this organization back when they were on their Stanley Cup run BM: I think I had Tampa Bay to win that series, I don't know why people got mad at me! What would you say to them to convince the fans that you're here to build a winner and you don't harbor any feelings or anything like that? BM: I think what I say doesn't matter, it's your actions are what matters. The fans come with an open mind and watch us play. What they think of me now doesn't matter. It's what they think of me at the end of the year that matters and that's the same thing with Oren and Lennie and the ownership group and the coaching staff. People are sort of watching this group, because I don't know if you've noticed, they're not the stereotypical NHL owners. They're being watched how they run things and me and my staff will be watched how we run things. Like I said, I'm much more concerned about what they think of us at the end of the year than what they think of me now. Question: With the work that you've been doing with television, do you feel being able to watch the other teams the way that you have, will that give you a little bit of an edge going in as a head coach, now knowing what different teams do and that sort of thing? BM: Well, in today's NHL, every you've got so much tape and every team has a video coach, there's no surprises anymore. No one's going to walk in this building this year and do something we haven't seen. What I like is, nobody's watched more hockey than me in the last year, the last five years. I've probably seen Tampa play 70 times last year, and every team on the East Coast probably 70 times, West Coast maybe 50. It's the personnel. There's not many players in the NHL that I don't have a read on who I'd like, who I wouldn't like, things like that. So I think that's probably the best thing about the NHL, what I know now, is the personnel. You don't win by gimmicks, you don't win by trick plays, we're going to win by out-working the opposition, we're going to win by wanting it more, we're going to win by paying a bigger price. A trick play on a power play ain't going to win a game for us or lose a game for us. That's what we're going to be focusing on, just getting guys that play hard every night. When they [the opposition] walk in this building 'Oh, we'll take it off tonight, we'll go beat Florida tomorrow night.' That's the type of team I want, as Oren mentioned, just that people do not like to play against. That's what we're trying to build here, and, again, it's not just, and I'm not talking about fighting and I'm not talking about hitting. You intimidate by speed, you intimidate by talent, you intimidate by good defense, you intimidate by goaltending. That's what I want out of this team. The fast guys are intimidating-fast, the tough guys are intimidatingtough things like that. That's the type of team I want to get here in Tampa Bay.
5 Question: I want to ask you about your preferred style of play and how it compares to what we're used to here, the go-go-go, safe is death, sort of style. BM: Well, I think we're going to attack when we can, but there's certain points that'll determine if you can attack. Obviously if we're playing Detroit and Nikky [Niklas] Lidstrom's got the puck on his stick and he's at center ice, you're not going to go crazy and attack Nikky Lidstrom with three guys and get picked apart. When we have a chance to get in a foot race for the puck, we're going to take it and we're going to be physical. The first guy's going to finish his check, the second guy's going to be right on top of him looking for the loose puck. The defense are going to be very aggressive on the walls. Transition I'm a big believer in transition, when a mistake's made against us, the puck's going to be turned and gone the other way in a hurry. I just think the game should be played fast and you use your speed defensively and you use your speed offensively. I'd like to see the shots cut down to a reasonable number. Any goaltender's going to be a lot better with 10 shots fewer. You don t have to be a math major to figure that out. I want to see guys giving up their bodies, blocking shots. Like I said, when you leave a game, I want you to say, 'Man those guys play hard. They're fun to watch.' And that's sort of the feeling I want fans to leave with, too. Question: Care to say anything nice to say about your previous employer [ESPN]? BM: [laughs] Well, apart from my co-workers, who I didn't get along with ESPN it's a little bit of a joke they've been great. Everyone here watches ESPN, they know what it's like, but this is going to ESPN News, so this is why he asked the question. Just some of the best friends I've ever made are at ESPN, so I really enjoyed my time there. Hopefully I'll never see it again, but I really enjoyed my time there! Question: You talked about your system and style of play being aggressive does that means we won't see any form of a trap? BM: No What it means is, I'll never use the word 'trap,' because the trap probably came close to ruining the NHL. But there will be times that you have to plug up the neutral zone. Like I said, if Nikky Lidstrom's got the puck on his stick and you're playing Detroit, you've got to take his options away. But if there's a foot race for the puck and Nikky Lidstrom's going back for it, one of our guys is going to ram him really hard into the boards. We'll be aggressive every possible chance we can be on the puck. You're going to see a Bolt jersey on the puck every foot race, every loose puck, every chance at a loose puck, you're going to see one of our players going after it with great speed. LB: I don't want to be sleeping in the box, either, so hopefully it'll be exciting to watch. BM: Anything else, guys? Thank you very much.