The knock on former Tampa Bay Lightning coach Barry Melrose was his lack of preparation. Which is why Ryan Malone's comments about interim coach Rick Tocchet are so noteworthy.
"He's been a great coach preparing us the right way," Malone said before a 2-0 victory over the Penguins at Mellon Arena earlier in the week. "I kind of feel bad for him a little bit. The numbers and wins haven't been there for him, but the coaches have done everything they possibly could to turn this around for us. It's our job as players to get the job done."
There are subtle signs of improvement despite a 3-9-5 mark under Tocchet, compared with Melrose's 5-7-4.
Tampa Bay allowed an average 35.7 shots in Melrose's 16 games, with fewer than 30 allowed in only one game. The team has allowed an average 31.5 shots in Tocchet's 17 games, with four games fewer than 30, including a season-low 15 against the Penguins.
That is 35 fewer total shots allowed (536-571) despite playing one more game. Not only is the defense playing better, but forwards are helping out in the defensive zone.
"He's straightforward," Malone said of Tocchet, who played with the Flyers from 1984 to '92 and 1999 to 2002. "He's not asking for a lot. You give everything in the tank and there's no questions asked." *