TAMPA — When the Tampa Bay Lightning disposed of head coach Barry Melrose and promoted assistant Rick Tocchet to interim head coach, former Boston Bruins head coach Mike Sullivan was brought back to the staff as associate coach.
Sullivan, who had been an assistant under fired head coach John Tortorella, was still under contract, but wasn’t doing what he does best — teach young players. Now he’s aiding Tocchet, who’s a head coach in the NHL for the first time, and the former teammates from their days with the Phoenix Coyotes are trying to get the Lightning back on the right track.
“He’s very sound technically. He knows the East Coast as well as any guy I know,” said Tocchet of Sullivan. “He’s got some really good input with the defense. I think our defense has probably been our weakest thing all year. And we’ve made strides the last month with it, and with Sully here I think it’s going to get better. And his credentials, he was a head coach (in the NHL) and in the World Championship with the U.S. team, he’s been at every level, won at Providence as a head coach, so he’s been around.”
No less a prospect than 2008 No. 1 draft pick Steven Stamkos had glowing praise for the former Bruins coach and player’s tutelage.
“He’s been great with our team with all the video. He understands the game a lot more than many other people that I’ve met in my short career. So it’s been great with us, with video, dissecting other teams and then our plays as well. He’s a great person to have on your staff, especially for a young player like me to learn so much from him.”