Lightning picks up coaches' options
By DAMIAN CRISTODERO, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published November 15, 2002
TAMPA -- With the Lightning off to its best start and enjoying what general manager Jay Feaster called a period of "stability," the team eliminated an issue festering since last season.
Tampa Bay on Thursday picked up the options for 2003-04 on the contracts of coach John Tortorella, associate coach Craig Ramsay and assistant coach Jeff Reese.
Also retained were video coach Nigel Kirwan and strength and conditioning coach Eric Lawson.
"I'd like to thank Jay Feaster, Ron (team president Campbell) and (owner) Bill Davidson in showing confidence in what this staff is trying to do here," said Tortorella, 44, whose salary will increase from $450,000 to $500,000.
"Hopefully, we can keep on going in the right direction and try to complete the job," Tortorella said.
Feaster said: "It's not so much a case of wins and losses that led to this decision. It's about do you have the right people doing the job? That's what drove this decision. If we weren't in first place in the division and weren't playing as well as we have, it would still be the right thing to do."
That is because Tortorella and his staff have brought order, respectability and expectations to a team that in 2001 set an NHL standard with four consecutive seasons of at least 50 losses, including overtime.
Since the job began in January 2001, when Tortorella took over for the fired Steve Ludzik, Tampa Bay is 48-71-14-8.
But the team is 9-4-2-1 this season and atop the Southeast Division.
Ramsay, 51, who runs special teams, joined Tampa Bay 12 days after Tortorella was promoted from associate.
Reese, 36, a former Lightning goaltender who works with all the organization's goalies, is in his third season.
Feaster said "in a perfect world" the contracts would have been extended over the summer. But he said there were "more pressing issues to take care of in getting this team ready to go for the season" such as getting the players signed.
Feaster said he got the go-ahead to extend the coaching contracts at a meeting this month in Auburn Hills, Mich., with Davidson, Campbell and CEO Tom Wilson.
The contracts end after 2003-04, as does Feaster's, though he has a club option for 2004-05. The coaching contracts do not have options.
Feaster said it is no accident his contract and those of the coaching staff run out at the same time.
"We decided the right thing to do from a process standpoint is let's let this thing play out," he said. "We see where I am at the end of that period and where the organization wants to be."
Feaster also said the coaching options negotiated for next season "were relatively easy. ... I'd like to think after back-to-back playoff appearances this year and next, those guys will have some great leverage."
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