Lightning fire GM Lawton, coach Tocchet Staff

4/12/2010 11:12:31 AM

The housecleaning is underway in Tampa Bay.

After missing the playoffs for the third straight year, the Lightning have fired both General Manager Brian Lawton and head coach Rick Tocchet.

"Now that the 2009-10 Tampa Bay Lightning season has concluded, we have decided to replace Brian and Rick," new Lightning owner Jeff Vinik said in a statement. "Our hockey operations department needs a fresh start in order to help us fulfill our goal of being a world-class organization. I'd like to thank both Brian and Rick for their dedication and service to the Lightning.

"Our search for a Chief Executive Officer is well underway and we are in the process of interviewing candidates. After the new CEO is hired, he will hire our new General Manager in time to prepare for the draft and free agency periods."

Vinik took over ownership of the Lightning this past March, paying approximately $110 million for the team, significantly less than the price that Oren Koules and Len Barrie paid for the team in 2008. 

While Tocchet was a bit of a controversial hire in Tampa after replacing Barry Melrose in November of 2008, he was largely credited with turning around the fortunes of sniper Steven Stamkos who just wrapped up a phenomenal season that saw him share the Rocket Richard Trophy with Sidney Crosby.

According to the St. Petes Times, Tocchet was scheduled to meet with Vinik Monday morning.  He had one year remaining on a two-year deal.  The Lightning went 53-69-12 under Tocchet.

Lawton, whose contract was up at the end of June, did not attend the Lightning's final game of the season on Saturday against the Panthers.  He was hired by the Lightning in June of 2008 and was promoted to General Manager on October 22, 2008.

The relationship between Tocchet and Lawton was said to be strained due to Lawton's dismissal Tocchet's assistant Wes Walz mid-season.

No replacement for either Lawton nor Tocchet has been named at this time however Assistant General Manager Tom Kurvers will assume responsibility for Lightning hockey operations until the new General Manager is hired. After the new General Manager is hired, he will select the new Head Coach.

The Lightning will take their first step towards turning the ship around on Tuesday at the 2010 NHL Draft Lottery which will be broadcast live on TSN starting at 8pm et/5pm pt.  The Bolts hold the sixth position in the lottery and can move up to second if the ping pong balls fall the right way.  The lowest that they can pick is seventh.