Monday, November 17, 2008

I don't think integrity needs rules

I don't know much about hockey, but over the last 10 years when I'd come across an NHL game on ESPN, I enjoyed watching Barry Melrose, who coached the LA Kings (and Wayne Gretzky) to the Stanley Cup Finals in the early 1990s.

When he was hired to coach in Tampa Bay back in June, he was asked why the Lightning had slipped to last place in the NHL's Eastern Conference:

"I think what happened here is just a group that lost their passion in the second part of the season. That's why you win. You outwork other teams, you out-want other teams. When you lose that fire and lose that passion, it's very hard to compete in the NHL."

When he was fired last week, just 16 games into the season, one of his players told the press that Coach Melrose "did not come to camp with a plan that was going to help a team that had undergone a dramatic overhaul of personnel in the offseason."

“It was, the player said, like shinny hockey with a few fights thrown in for good measure. There was no system. No plan. At least not one that was discernible, he said.”

Here's how Coach Melrose described his coaching style and what happened in Tampa:

"I’m not a big rules guy. I don’t think integrity needs rules. I just ask them to come and compete every night. When we do that, we’re an excellent hockey club. When we try to do it for 20 minutes, when we try to do it for 40 minutes, it costs you.

"I’m not a guy who sings ‘Cumbaya’ around the fire. I let you know if I’m not happy with you. And obviously a lot of guys didn’t like to be held accountable with this team. The players have power here and they exercised that power and now they can play who they want and when they want and how much they want and not [have someone] demand a lot of them.

"You have to earn ice time. The only power a coach has to motivate players is ice time. I’m leaving here with my head high…It didn’t work. I’m fine with that. I can live with myself with that."