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14 posts from May 2010

May 28, 2010

New Monsters of the Midway: Chicago Blackhawks to Win Cup

HawkscupINDIANAPOLIS -- Hello and good afternoon from the press box at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

A lot of people here are talking about the Indy Cars and the 94th running of the 500, but many more are talking hockey.

The general consensus from what I have been reading has the red-hot Blackhawks as the prohibitive favorite.

I agree with that.

Funny how just a few months ago we saw a goalie named Antti Niemi suit up in Helsinki and shut out the Panthers.

We just figured it was yet another backup goalie beating the Panthers. Turns out, he was pretty good.

Niemi has more than held his own in his first NHL postseason and he ended up stopping 95 percent of shots faced in Chicago's sweep of the Sharks.

The Blackhawks have no problem playing on the road either, and that experience will help them when they run into the nuts in Philadelphia. For the first time in my life, I really like a Flyers team. This Flyers team. They are exciting, play in your face and have a certain swagger about them.

I think this is going to be a real good series, one of the better ones we've seen in the past few decades.

That said, I'm picking the Hawks in 6.

-- Playoff Picks: Went 6-2 in the opening round (lost Boston and Washington); 3-1 in the second (lost Montreal); 1-1 in the third (picked Montreal). So that makes me 10-4. Not too hot. Would like to go 11-4, but would really like to see a great series. Chicago will go nuts if the Hawks win, but nothing like Philly if the Flyers pull it out. 

THE STANLEY CUP FINALS

Philadelphia Flyers vs. Chicago Blackhawks

Seeds: Flyers (No. 7 in Eastern Conference); Blackhawks (No. 2 in Western Conference)

Playoff Road: Flyers d. Devils (No. 2); Bruins (No. 6); Canadiens (No. 8); Blackhawks d. Predators (No. 7); Canucks (No. 3); Sharks (No. 1).

Stanley Cup History: Flyers have won two Stanley Cups (1974, 75); Blackhawks have won three (1934, 38, 61).

This season: Flyers 3, Blackhawks 2 at Philadelphia, March 13

The Pick: Blackhawks in 6

May 25, 2010

Dale Tallon Talks Markstrom, Rochester, DeBoer and Yzerman

Tallon1Dale Tallon is back from Germany where he spoke with coach Pete DeBoer and also spoke with unsigned prospect Jacob Markstrom and his agent. 

Tallon also talked about the problems coming out of Rochester, the fate of Florida's two assistant coaches and Steve Yzerman coming to Florida's other coast.

As far as the coaching thing goes, I think we'll have some news coming out in June. I would not be surprised to see two new coaches behind the bench with Pete DeBoer next season.

Here's what he had to say as he spoke to the South Florida media on a variety of subjects after his first week on the job as Panthers GM:

"I talked to Markstrom and his agent. We had good conversations.

He expressed an interest in coming over and we want to sign him. We are negotiating as we speak."

IS MARKSTROM NHL READY?

"Ability wise he's ready. It's a different style of play, not as much traffic in front of net, more physicality.

"He's going to have to adjust, get in some games in the American League. We have super goalies in Florida, so it's a perfect opportunity for him to learn the style and get in some games.

"We don't want to rush him. We want to make sure he's ready. There's nothing wrong with him playing American League games. Same thing with Niemi. It didn't hurt him to play some AHL games. Look at him now. We want to take the proper steps. It's a marathon not a sprint. We want him to develop the right path.

"It's a great situation for him and I they realize that. I would think they're look forward to coming over, but I can't speak for them.''

ON PETE DEBOER

"We talked about pretty much everything. It was a good meeting, talked all about hockey ops, players, style of play, and our philosophies. It was a lot of up-front dialog.

"I like his approach, like that he is very up front. Look at his quotes after the season. He's a stand up guy. We're going to have a good relationship.''

ON RANDY SEXTON

"Randy and I will meet at the combine in Toronto.''

ON THE FATE OF THE ASSISTANT COACHES JIM HULTON AND MIKE KITCHEN

"Pete and I have a list and we're going to decide once we get together next couple of weeks and see what shakes out. We are going to discuss it and see.

"I haven't talked to either one of them. We have to make that decision in a little while.''

ON THE ROCHESTER SITUATION AND THEIR POSSIBLE FREE AGENCY IN 2010

"I will take care of that situation shortly. It was a shock to me, on my second day on job, to see that in paper. I don't do business in the newspaper. I'm looking into every situation. I'm sure we'll take good care of them.

"I've looked at it briefly. I will look at what is best for our organization and Rochester and the development of our players. Get through the combine, testing and interview. Do right thing there, then take next steps to make the organization better.''

ON STEVE YZERMAN MOVING TO AN OFFICE UP THE STREET IN TAMPA

"Class guy, great player. Did a good job with the Canadian Olympic team. I'm excited to have him there to deal with him. He's a great guy, a class act. Great addition to the position. He'll do a good job there.''

May 19, 2010

Flying in Coach: Panthers Using Airlines for Ticket Pricing Model

Fletchplane BY GEORGE RICHARDS

Not only are the Panthers expected to announce that they are reducing the capacity for most home games at BankAtlantic Center on Thursday, but the team is also going to unveil a new pricing structure for individual game tickets.

Team president Michael Yormark says the new setup is based on the way airlines sell seats – prices will be determined as it gets closer to game time.

“It will pay to buy earlier,'' Yormark said. “As inventory sells and gets tighter, the pricing will jump from tier to tier. It's all about supply and demand. Fans won't get the best price if they wait. When single game tickets go on sale in September, you will want to buy because the price will increase.''

Catchme The team will have four categories of prices, with bronze being the lowest and platinum being the highest.

As I understand it, the structure will go like this:

Most games will be designated a bronze game. If ticket sales are brisk, the price will go up as it moves up a tier to silver. If that game continues to sell well, it would move to gold and then ultimately to platinum.

Let's use a $100 ticket (for fun: Section 101, Row 15, Seat 1) in the lower deck as our example.

If it's a Monday night game against the Thrashers, that ticket would likely still be $100 for a walk-up purchase (meaning it would remain a bronze-tier ticket) since that game wouldn't be considered a big draw.

But, that same seat wouldn't start at $100 for a game against the Canadiens or Penguins. Instead, it would start off as a silver or gold. So to start, that $100 ticket could be $140.

With the Canadiens/Penguins being a huge draw, the ticket price would climb based on availability – and could end up costing close to double what the same ticket for the Thrashers cost.

The Panthers tried 'variable' pricing before and it didn't get off the ground.

Quagmire A few years back, the team wanted to charge a $25 fee for big-ticket games. This is a similar idea -- only taken to a much, much higher level.

If a game is selling fast, Yormark says TicketMaster is able to jack up a ticket based on information from the team.

So say a ticket (again, using the same $100 ticket if it was a 'bronze') to the Canadiens game in December opens at $140 in September – as a silver or gold.

As it gets closer to game time, that same ticket could rise to almost $200 if it is bumped up to platinum.

Yormark says season ticket holders won't be hit with the premium pricing for the various big games.

“Yes, if a ticket went from bronze to platinum, it could double in price before the game was played,'' Yormark said. “But we wouldn't anticipate a game designated as bronze moving all the way up the tiers.''

Going by the airlines standard, prices fluctuate depending on how many seats have been sold. The fewer seats on a certain flight, the higher the price.

We'll see how this works in a 41 game hockey season.

Airplane2 And Yormark chuckled when I asked if this idea was sponsored by JetBlue. He said no, but I bet he's now thinking about it.

“You could say it's a heavy premium,'' he continued, “but you could also say 'what a great deal that seat is on a Tuesday'.''







Florida Panthers to Reduce Capacity in Sunrise

Murpharena Bac2 BY GEORGE RICHARDS

The Florida Panthers spent their early years playing at the Miami Arena. At the time, it was one of the smallest and most intimate venues in the NHL.

Those were great days for the Panthers. Not only was the team winning, but there was a demand for the product. Those who wanted to buy season tickets got on a list. Single game tickets were scarce.

In 1998, the team moved to its sprawling new home on the edge of the Everglades. Seating capacity went from 14,823 in Miami to 19,250 in suburban Sunrise.

“Our building is just too big,'' team president Michael Yormark said Wednesday. “It would be too big for a lot of teams in the league.''

With the team failing to make the playoffs in the past decade, on most nights, a large number of seats sit empty during home games.

Now, they'll just be covered up.

The Panthers are expected to announce on Thursday that they are cutting the capacity for hockey games at BankAtlantic Center by more than 2,000.

The arena will hold 17,040 for most games.

“It will create a more intimate environment for our fans when they enter the bowl,'' Yormark said.

“It will also enhance the fan experience and create some scarcity with our tickets. It will also limit the  Arenafront number of promotional tickets we have to put out in the marketplace. .-.-. We think this is the right decision. Go back to the old Miami Arena. What made it so exciting? It was tight, fans were right on top of the action. We played at 99 percent capacity. We think we can go back to that.''

The top six rows in the corners of the upper deck as well as end zone seating will be covered in tarps for most home games. The tarps will be blue in color to blend in with the color of the highest seats in the building.

Those fans who have already purchased tickets in the seats that will be now made unavailable will be upgraded and moved closer to the ice at no extra charge.

Yormark says the tarps will have advertising as well as the team's logo.

“We want the bowl to look symmetrical so that's why we're going all the way around,'' Yormark said. “The reality is, when you walk into a bowl and you see density, an arena full of fans, it automatically tells you your going to have fun, it's going to be cool, you are at a party. A lot of empty seats takes away from the experience. We want a better experience for our fans, a better value for our fans and create a scarcity.''

Unlike the Jacksonville Jaguars – who covered up almost 10,000 seats to try and keep NFL television blackouts at a minimum – the Panthers could remove the tarps for select games.

The NFL told the Jaguars they couldn't pick and choose which games they wanted to have a lower capacity for so the tarps remain up throughout the season. The Panthers have no such concerns.

When big draws like Montreal, Pittsburgh and the New York Rangers roll into town, the tarps will be rolled back. The tarps will also be taken off for concerts and other events.

The University of Miami reduced seating at Sun Life Stadium last season by covering sections in the upper deck and club level with UM branded tarps. The Miami Heat's balcony at AmericanAirlines Arena seats over 3,000 fans. When the balcony is closed, the downtown arena has an official capacity of 16,500. The Marlins also limit seating at Sun Life Stadium, although for the 1997 and 2003 playoffs, all available seats were open.

The Panthers are believed to be the first NHL team in recent history to decrease capacity without adding luxury boxes or other premium seating.

The Carolina Hurricanes curtained off most of the upper deck at their temporary home in Greensboro (capacity: 21,273) in 1998-99, as did the Lightning when they played games at Tropicana Field (then known as the ThunderDome) in St. Petersburg from 1993-96.

Bac2 Under the current configuration, the Panthers capacity is seventh largest in the league according to official numbers released in the league's media guide.

Last year, Florida averaged an announced 15,146 at home, just 79 percent of capacity – ranked 25th in the league.

With the upper deck tarps, the Panthers will play in the third smallest arena in the league – just larger than the antiquated arenas in Edmonton (opened in 1974) and Long Island (1972).

Of course, the Panthers arena has much more luxury seating -- including two levels of suites -- than Edmonton or the Nassau Coliseum.

The New Jersey Devils cut around 2,000 seats from its capacity when it moved from the Meadowlands to Newark in 2007 but added premium seating and boxes it did not have at Continental Arena.

2009-10 NHL Capacity

1. Montreal 21,273

2. Chicago 20,500

3. Detroit 20,066

4. Tampa Bay 19,758

5. Philadelphia 19,527

6. Calgary 19,289

7. FLORIDA 19,250

8. Ottawa 19,153

9. St. Louis 19,150

10. Toronto 18,819

(*) -- Source: 2009-10 NHL Media Guide

2010-11 NHL Arena Capacity

21. Colorado 18.007

22. New Jersey 17, 625

23. Boston 17,565

24. San Jose 17,562

25. Anaheim 17,142

26. Phoenix 17,125

27. Nashville 17,113

28. FLORIDA 17,040

29. Edmonton 16,839

30. Islanders 16,234



Randy Sexton Speaks: Disappointed but Respects Decision ... Would Return if Asked

Sexton Randy Sexton spoke to the South Florida media on Wednesday from Pittsburgh where he and his family have gathered to visit Ray Shero and his family after the death of Shero's mother Mariette this past weekend.

Sexton, who has always been a class act with us, was very candid again on Wednesday.

While he was disappointed he was replaced as GM of the Panthers in less than one year, he says it's all about the Panthers and if this is the best move for the franchise, he's cool with it.

Sexton added that he would come back to the franchise if new general manager Dale Tallon wants him to.

"First and foremost, for those who have been around, you all know how much I love the Panthers,'' Sexton said. “In my four years, I spent every ounce of energy to try and help out. I also know at end of the day, it's not about me. It's about the team. The most important thing is the franchise. I completely respect the ownership for putting the people they want in place to lead. I'm disappointed, but I fully respect their prerogative.

“Dale has done a terrific job in Chicago and deserves an awful lot of the credit for the team we watch today in Chicago. He put that team together. He'll be a terrific leader in Florida. He's a very worthy choice for the Panthers.''

On pushing ahead after the ownership told him Bill Torrey was looking for a new GM:

“I had a responsibility to push the franchise forward as much as I could,'' Sexton said. “That's what I worked on. It was important to get the draft choices signed, make sure Rochester had the most successful postseason possible.

"No one was in place, someone had to do the work. I undertook it with a lot of energy every day. Most important thing was the team and the franchise. The work needed to be done so I did it.''

On his future:

“It's far too early,'' he said. “I just got the news of the decision a few days ago.

“I would welcome the opportunity to stay with the organization if Dale thought I could help. I also know how the business works. If Dale wants to go in a different direction, I totally understand. I just need some time to collect my thoughts, spend some quiet time with my wife and kids. I told Dale I would help in any way I could. We'll talk when he gets back to Florida. I still have a contract with Florida and will fulfill it as much as Dale wants me to.''

“This is not about me, but about the team. I believe that in good times and in tough times like this. The Panthers are in a position to continue to build and thrive. If I'm part of that fine. If not, I'll move on to my next opportunity.''



May 18, 2010

In Other News: Keith Ballard Has Surgery ... Peter Worrell is Big Man on Campus

Ballard3 Spoke to Keith Ballard yesterday and he sends everyone his best.

It's been a busy -- and productive -- offseason for Ballard.

He and his wife Jamie returned to Minneapolis soon after the season ended and had their first child -- a girl.

Ballard also had hip surgery to repair an injury that was nagging at him through much of the season. He says it was nothing major, but it was something that needed to be addressed before it did become something big.

He says he is still on crutches and probably will be for the next couple of weeks. He says he has been rehabbing each day in Minnesota and will resume workouts in the coming weeks. He adds that he will be 100 percent by training camp.

-- Move over Howard, there's another big name coming to Boca Raton.

Belushi Former Panthers enforcer Peter Worrell has been named the new hockey coach at Florida Atlantic University.

According to the release I just got, the Owls compete in the American Collegiate Hockey Association, Division III South Region.

Worrell is also the coach at North Broward Prep in Coconut Creek and led the Eagles to a state championship a few seasons back.

Congrats to Peter.

Welcome to The Billboard: Dale Tallon Touches Down in Sunrise

Tallon1 One of the first things Dale Tallon did while being introduced as the new general manager of the Florida Panthers was thank the Chicago Blackhawks.

“Without them I wouldn't be here,'' he said, pausing for comedic effect. “In more ways than one.''

Had he not had the opportunity to run the Blackhawks for four seasons, he likely wouldn't have been a candidate to manage the Panthers.

And had the Blackhawks not fired him last summer, he wouldn't have been available to be hired by the Panthers.

Perhaps the Panthers should be thanking their peers in Chicago for letting Tallon go. It's apparent the success-starved Panthers are happy to have Tallon in charge of righting the ship.

The Panthers haven't made the playoffs in an NHL record tying nine seasons and record-setting 10 years. The Blackhawks, a team built by Tallon, is currently playing in the Western Conference finals for the second straight year.

“When I found out Dale was available and interested, that's where I went and I never wavered from that,'' said alternate governor Bill Torrey, who led Florida's search for a new general manager the past two offseasons.

“Hiring Dale, I think, as in short a time as I think he can do it, we're going to have a hell of a lot more exciting days and games in this building in the month of May. It's been a while since we've had it, and I'm firmly convinced he can bring us back to that.''

Tallonpuck Added managing partner Cliff Viner: “We promised a professional, well-run organization that we all can be proud of. We're making good on that promise today. He's a proven hockey leader who was genuinely excited to join our franchise.''

Tallon's first order of business as the Panthers new executive vice president and so-called 'hockey czar' is to fly to Germany to meet with head coach Pete DeBoer. An assistant coach for Team Canada's entry in the World Championships there, DeBoer will indeed return for his third season behind the Florida bench. Tallon says he just wants to meet up with his coach to talk about the future of the Panthers.

DeBoer has two assistant coaches with expiring contracts. Amateur scouting director Scott Luce's job also appears to be safe.

Tallon replaces Randy Sexton, who spent less than a year on the job. Sexton was the interim GM last summer after Jacques Martin left to coach the Montreal Canadiens. Torrey held a search for a new GM last summer, but with the team's ownership in flux, the decision was made to let Sexton take over the job fulltime on Oct. 2.

Sexton is said to be traveling back from the Memorial Cup in Canada. Sexton's contract is thought to be expiring this summer – general partner Stu Siegel refused to confirm that – although Sexton could stay with the franchise in some capacity. Sexton is known to be a good salary cap analyst and an expert when it comes to the collective bargaining agreement, so he could return to his role as the assistant GM.

Sexton is also very close to Pittsburgh GM Ray Shero and could possibly end up with the Penguins organization later this summer. Tallon said he thought Sexton was traveling from Brandon, Manitoba, to Pittsburgh. Sexton is scheduled to talk to the South Florida media on Wednesday.

“We're going to evaluate everything and see what's best for both of us,'' said Tallon. “This is a great game and a tough business. I just went through this in Chicago and it's never easy. Randy is a class guy and a wonderful guy. I know him a little bit, and he's been first class every time I talked to him. We'll have good talks moving forward.''

Siegel said that Sexton was told in a meeting a few weeks ago that Torrey was resuming his search. “We want to bring in the best people available,'' Siegel said. “We didn't want him to find this out through the grapevine.'' Sexton, however, had been going about his business as if the job would remain his. He said as recently as last Thursday that he felt there would be no change.

Tallonpuzzle This is an important offseason for a franchise that had one of its worst seasons in recent memory. After finishing tied with Montreal in points for the eighth and final playoff spot in 2009 (the Panthers lost a tiebreaker), Florida imploded in 2009-10 and ended with the third-worst record in the entire league.

For the first time in franchise history, the Panthers finished last in their division.

Yet that sad finish could be beneficial to the future. Sexton picked up two extra second round picks in the upcoming draft through trades and Florida holds the third overall pick. The Panthers have nine total picks – a number that could grow if Tallon decides to wheel and deal. Tallon was noncommittal to what the Panthers would do with the third pick.

Tallon also said each and every player would be evaluated but he's open to talk trade. Tallon says he would like to beef up the center position as well as find some more defense in the coming months. Tallon praised Dmitry Kulikov, Stephen Weiss, Nathan Horton, David Booth and Tomas Vokoun.

“I watched a lot of games from Vero Beach and I came to a lot of games last year,'' Tallon said. “We're definitely in a better position than we were when we started in Chicago. There are some good assets here, some good young players here.

"We obviously have a few holes to fill to get to the next level. We just need to add the right people to create the right chemistry. You can't win without that. But we have a tremendous opportunity coming up with the draft. We're excited about that.''

-- Tallon said that the Panthers have committed to beefing up the front office budget. Not only will he had an assistant GM, but a director of player personnel. He said he and the director will do a lot of the scouting, with the assistant GM doing mostly contract stuff.

-- Tallon says he knows Bryan McCabe from their days (way back when) in Chicago. He also seems to be a fan of Keith Ballard. He also seems to love Kulikov, and says the Panthers could probably use at least one shutdown d-man to let some of the offensive-minded defensemen do a little more.

-- When asked if Vokoun and Scott Clemmensen would start the season as the goaltending tandem, Tallon backed off saying that needed to be evaluated as well.

-- After Cliff Viner and Bill Torrey gave introductory comments, Tallon spoke, thanking the management team -- including one Michael "Yorkland."

I, of course, looked at Michael Yormark to get his reaction. Yormark's a pro at this kind of thing. The smile never left his face as he nodded in agreement.

"We're going to have a great relationship,'' Tallon continued.

-- Aside from Viner, Siegel and Yormark, partners Mike and Al Maroone were there as well as Jordan Zimmerman.

Alan Cohen, surprisingly, was not in attendance.



May 17, 2010

Panthers Carousel of Progress? Not So Far

CarouselofprogressRound and round they go.

Coaches come, GMs go.

Welcome to the Florida Panthers.

Dale Tallon was named the Panthers new GM on Monday, making him the ninth GM in franchise history. When I mentioned that to the Edmonton radio guys today they laughed. The Oilers have had four in their entire history.

Tallon is also the seventh GM since the Panthers last made the playoffs way back in 2000.

When teams lose, changes are made. It's only natural.

And the Panthers, well, they have been big on change. Because of the losses, you know.

To paraphrase Bryan Murray: "They didn't need to fire us. WE could have missed the playoffs for 10 years if that's what they wanted.''

PANTHERS CHANGES

Coaches Since 2000 Playoffs

Terry Murray (1997-fired 2000)

Duane Sutter (2000-fired 2001)

Mike Keenan (2001-fired 2003)

Rick Dudley (interim 2003-04)

John Torchetti (2004-fired 2004)

Jacques Martin (2004-fired 2008)

Pete DeBoer (2008-present)


GMs Since 2000 Playoffs

Bryan Murray (1994-fired 2000)

Bill Torrey (interim 2000-01)

Chuck Fletcher (interim 2001)

Rick Dudley (2002-fired 2004)

Mike Keenan (2004-fired 2006)

Jacques Martin (2006-resigned 2009)

Randy Sexton (2009-fired 2010)

Dale Tallon (2010-present)

Dale Tallon Named Panthers GM


Check this address for more...

Dale Tallon Ninth GM of the Panthers: Randy Sexton Future Unclear

Tallon

BY GEORGE RICHARDS

The Florida Panthers have changed general managers for the third time in a year as Dale Tallon has been hired to replace Randy Sexton.

Tallon, the former general manager of the Chicago Blackhawks, will be introduced at a press conference at the team's arena in Sunrise on Tuesday at 11 a.m.

Tallon is the ninth general manager in franchise history and seventh since the start of the 2000-01 season.

“It is with great pleasure and excitement that I join the Florida Panthers,” Tallon said in a release. “I look forward to getting to work and will immediately evaluate our club’s framework, as we diligently prepare for the upcoming draft and free agency signing period.”

Tallon was demoted by the Blackhawks last summer a week after the team mistakingly didn't offer qualifying offers to their restricted free agents by the deadline. Tallon had one year left on his contract with the team. Sexton, who was in Brandon, Manitoba, scouting the Canadian Memorial Cup when told of Tallon's hiring, was not available for comment and it's not known what – if any – role he will play in the organization. Tallon is expected to address that on Tuesday.

Tallon took over as Chicago's general manager in 2005. At the time, the Blackhawks had missed the playoffs in seven of eight years. Since Tallon was hired in Chicago, the Blackhawks advanced to the conference finals twice. Chicago lost to Detroit in the 2009 west finals.

In 2005-06, the Blackhawks finished the season ranked 28th out of 30 clubs with 65 points (the Panthers had 85 that year).

Since then, Tallon drafted All-Stars Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. Tallon also acquired Patrick Sharp (trade with Philadelphia), Kris Versteeg (trade with Boston), Brian Campbell, Marian Hossa, Antti Niemi and John Madden.

The Panthers haven't been to the playoffs in an NHL record-tying nine seasons and record-setting 10 years. Sexton was Florida's assistant general manager under Jacques Martin from 2007-09 and was the team's interim general manager through last summer after Martin left June 1 to become coach of the Montreal Canadiens – who opened the Eastern Conference finals Sunday night in Philadelphia.

Sexton was given the permanent GM job just hours before Florida opened the 2009-10 season on Oct. 2 in Helsinki, Finland. Sexton's press conference in Helsinki was held prior to the Panthers taking on the Blackhawks.

It is not clear what changes Tallon would institute when he takes over the Panthers – and Sexton could remain with the franchise in some capacity although the contract he signed with the team last year is expiring.

Coach Pete DeBoer is signed for at least another year and is expected to return. The Panthers had not commented on DeBoer's status publicly since the offseason started, the thought being they would wait until a new GM was in place. Florida's two bench assistant coaches – Mike Kitchen and Jim Hulton – have expiring contracts.

Tallon brings a wealth of hockey experience to Sunrise. Not only is Tallon an experienced manager, but he was also an accomplished player. In 1970, he was the second overall pick in the draft by the Vancouver Canucks. Tallon spent 10 seasons in the NHL, the two-time All-Star defenseman's career derailed by injuries. Tallon, who also played for the Blackhawks and Penguins, ended his career with 98 goals and 238 assists in 642 games.

After spending time in the broadcasting booth, Tallon was hired by Chicago to be their director of player personnel in 1998 and promoted to assistant GM in 2003. Tallon was named the team's full-time GM in 2005 and he remained there until he was replaced by Stan Bowman a week after the team missed the deadline for sending qualifying offers to restricted free agents.

The players' union filed a grievance against the team and prompted the NHL Players' Association to file a grievance against the team. All of the players – most notably Versteeg – signed with the Blackhawks even though they could have become free agents.

Tallon's work in rebuilding the Blackhawks has not gone unnoticed. According to Pierre LeBrun of ESPN.com, Tallon received a vote in the recent balloting for the league's GM of the year award – even though he's no longer the team's manager. Washington's George McPhee, Nashville's David Poile and Phoenix's Don Maloney ended up being the three finalists for the award.

South Florida golf courses should also expect to see Tallon teeing it up during his free time. Tallon won the 1969 Canadian Junior championship and spent a few offseasons competing on the Canadian PGA Tour.

May 15, 2010

Flyers Make Historic Comeback: Riot Punch, Anyone? ... Now! With On Frozen Poll

OzzieAnother classic round of the NHL playoffs have been completed, and now it gets fun.

The winner of the following round gets to play for the big Cup.

While I've enjoyed watching the NBA playoffs as have many in the States over the years (I didn't enjoy watching the Cavs, however), I'm sure having so many lopsided series on the hoops side in Round 2 may have led some new viewers to the hockey postseason.

In fact, I've gotten plenty of e-mails and have been approached by people who have told me they have become smitten by these hockey playoffs -- and are now giving the sport a chance.

And why not? The play has been great; the story lines amazing.

Philadelphia, down 3-0 in its series to the Bruins, was dead right?

No way Roberto Luongo and the Canucks lose all three games at home of their series with Chicago after winning Game 1, right?

And there is no way Montreal -- the eighth seed in the east -- could knock off No. 1 Washington and then trump the defending champion Penguins, right?

Right?

And the fun continues on Sunday when the San Jose Sharks play host to the Blackhawks for the opener of the west finals. Great stories there as well. The Sharks have been hockey's biggest postseason bust the past few years. The Sharks can now put all that behind them with a win over the Blackhawks -- an Original Six franchise trying to end hockey's longest Cup drought.

Of course, I think the Sharks have already put all that choking thing behind them. The Bruins own that title now.

Here's who I like in the conference semifinals:

In the west, I'm sticking with the Blackhawks. Wasn't very impressed with them during the opening round, but they look strong. Taking Chicago to win that one in San Jose in Game 6.

In the east, as much as I like the way Philadelphia has played so far, I have really been impressed with the Habs. Nothing seems to faze JM's bunch. And they have the advantage in net. Taking the Canadiens in yet another Game 7.

Alwayssunnyphanatic Call this the Riot Punch Series.

It doesn't matter which team wins, you can bet on some broken windows -- perhaps some flipped police cars, too -- after it's all said and done.

-- Last round: Went 3-1, bringing the postseason tally to a decent 9-3. JM and the Canadiens account for two of my losses this playoff season. Buffalo losing to Boston was the other.

As always, your comments and predictions for the conference finals welcomed below.

Enjoy the playoffs folks.

May 13, 2010

Catching Up on a Thursday: Talking Panthers with Randy Sexton

Ross Happy Thursday to everyone, hope summer is treating you well.

With no hockey on tonight (we're all anxiously anticipating Friday's Game 7 in Boston) here's an update on what's going around Pantherland.

First off, spoke with GM Randy Sexton today about a few things.

He's basically been scouting the NHL and AHL playoffs while also checking out prospects and such. He'll be in Brandon, Manitoba, for the Memorial Cup -- the Panthers have two prospects playing.

-- One thing we talked about were restricted free agents, with Sexton saying they have a pretty good idea of which players the Panthers will tender. He wouldn't tell me what decisions have been made, but of the four major restricted free agents Florida has, I would think the Panthers make offers to Jason Garrison and Kenndal McArdle as well as Gregory Campbell. I don't think Kamil Kreps is coming back, but the Panthers could surprise us and tender him as well.

Florida doesn't have any unrestricted free agents this season.

Sexton all but said McArdle would be coming back -- and this makes plenty of sense. The Panthers made him a first round pick in the Sidney Crosby draft of 2005 and feel he turned a major corner this season before getting hurt.

McArdle had surgery on both shoulders this season, injuries Sexton called "disappointing,'' only because McArdle was playing so well. Sexton says he doesn't think McArdle's injuries will affect him in the future, although he knows it's a possibility. "I hope this is it for him as far as shoulder injuries go,'' he said.

-- Sexton adds that he thinks there are going to be quite a few trades pulled off once the Stanley Cup Finals are complete. He says he's getting his work done so the Panthers could be a team in play once the deals start cooking.

-- Sexton also said the Panthers are totally pulling in the preseason travel after the team had slow starts following their world tours. The Panthers are going to play on the road, but will also play at least two home preseason games. Sexton said the Panthers are talking with the Lightning about playing two games in the preseason.

Florida will also play at Boston and Montreal with a home game in Rochester against the Bruins. The Panthers are also expected to visit Carolina. The Hurricanes could be coming south for a Sunrise visit as well.

The team will announce the preseason schedule sometime later this summer once things are finalized. Training camp will open in Coral Springs so those rumors about a few days in Canada seem to be unfounded -- unless they camp out for a few days before/after the Canadiens game.

-- The Panthers are all but done with signing prospects after inking center Scott Timmins to an entry level deal.

This from the Panthers release:

Timmins, 20, played in 56 games for the Windsor Spitfires (OHL) this season, registering 54 points (30-24-54) and a plus-28 rating. In 19 playoff contests, Timmins scored 11 goals with 11 assists, helping Windsor advance to the 2010 Memorial Cup, his third appearance in as many years.

He previously played in the Memorial Cup with Windsor (2008-09) and Kitchener (2007-08). Timmins was also selected as the OHL’s best defensive forward and best penalty killer as selected by the league’s coaches.

The Hamilton, Ontario native was drafted by Florida in the sixth round (165th overall) in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft.  Timmins becomes the sixth prospect to be signed by Florida this off-season, joining Colby Robak, AJ Jenks, Marc Cheverie, Adam Comrie, and Eric Selleck.

Now, when I say all but done, the big signing of the summer is goalie Jacob Markstrom. The Panthers can't do that until after the World Championships -- where Markstrom is 2-0. Sexton says he's excited about the future of the Panthers in goal once Markstrom gets signed.

-- We didn't talk about the Panthers coaching staff nor what the plans were in Rochester. We'll save that for another day once Pete DeBoer returns from the World Championships in Germany. 

-- Steve Goldstein is holding his annual golf tournament on Friday at the Miccosukee Golf Club in Kendall. It's a great event that benefit's Goldie's Gang. Here is their website. I think if you want to play, they can get you in. Kickoff is at noon.

May 06, 2010

Panthers In the Community

BobbuilderThe Panthers organization is making a splash in the community as the franchise announced Thursday that its full-time staffers will each log at least 10 hours of community service each year -- with the franchise committing a total of 1,500 hours.

Team executives will log at least 20 hours per year.

Apparently the good works project kicks off tomorrow as the Panthers take part in a Habitat for Humanity build in Broward County.

I once committed Trash myself to doing community hours, although it wasn't voluntary.

The judge was very nice though. Gave me some good assignments. I got a nice tan.

Anyway, here's the press release from the team. Enjoy.

Sunrise Sports & Entertainment and the Florida Panthers announced today that its full time staff members will donate over 1,500 hours of community service each year as part of a new, unprecedented internal commitment to the South Florida community.

Each full time staff member – including team owners, Panthers players and incredible ICE employees - will donate at least 10 hours of community service, with executives donating at least 20 hours each year.

The community service commitment begins this Friday, May 7 when SSE staffers will take part in BankAtlantic’s Habitat For Humanity of Broward build day. This employee service commitment is part of SSE’s Contract With The Community, which was unveiled in December of 2009.

Other local charities looking for support are encouraged to contact the Panthers community relations department at PerryD@sselive.com or by phone at 954.835.7715.

 “Our entire staff is thrilled to have the opportunity to donate their time and effort to the South Florida community in such a personal and intimate way,” said SSE president & COO Michael Yormark.

“This is an unprecedented commitment in our industry and it is the most energized we have ever seen our staff about one particular SSE initiative. I am looking forward to hearing some selfless, heart-warming stories about our employees giving back to the South Florida community. This is yet another example of how SSE has made an organization-wide commitment to being more involved in the local community that so passionately supports this franchise.”

May 05, 2010

Panthers Sign Robak ... Olli Jokinen from Milan to Minsk? Not So Fast

Olli3 Before we get into the Panthers signing of defenseman Colby Robak, thought some might be interested in the latest rumors regarding former Florida captain Olli Jokinen.

Jokinen to the KHL has been rumored since the NHL season ended, but today, Puck Daddy's Dmitry Chesnokov posted a note today saying that No. 12 is about to sign with Dynamo Minsk -- not to be confused with Moscow Dynamo which is apparently out of business.

The original post comes from SportsDaily.ru. Check it out if your Russian is better than mine. Admittedly, my Russian is a little rusty. 

The Puck Daddy article states that Jokinen is close to signing with the KHL Minskers, but I am hearing differently from people close to Jokinen family. 

TSN's Darren Dreger put on his Twitter account tonight that "O.Jokinen's agent, Todd Diamond refutes Jokinen is close to signing with Minsk. Says Jokinen will play in NHL next yr." Follow Dreger, if you want, @DerrenDreger

As much as Jokinen would enjoy the tax free money the KHL offers, I don't think he wants to spend an entire season playing in the KHL. Just my hunch.

Anywho, Dynamo Minsk is located in Belarus and was the home of one Ville Peltonen last season.

According to the Puck Daddy post, Peltonen has moved on to the KHL and is planning on playing in his native Finland next season.

Jozef Stumpel, the bought out Florida winger who attended at least one Panthers game once the KHL season ended this year, also plays for Minsk. Google searches also link Richard Zednik to Stumpel and Jokinen so he may be in Minsk as well for all I know. Zednik played for the KHL's Yaroslavl Lokomotiv last season, scoring six goals in 37 games.

Jokinen, you old timers may recall, used to play for the Panthers. In fact, he's a free agent now since the four year deal he signed with Mike Keenan and the Panthers in 2006 has just expired.

If you remember, Jokinen was rumored to be traded by Florida at the deadline that season. Instead, on deadline day, they signed him to a four year deal. Jokinen spent the first two years of that contract in Florida before being moved to Phoenix in 2008. Jokinen later played for Calgary and the Rangers.

Robak -- The Panthers made another move today signing prospect Colby Robak after a successful season with the Brandon Wheat Kings of the WHL. Robak had 66 points off 16 goals with the Wheat Kings and was third in the league among d-men in scoring.

The 20-year-old was the 46th overall pick in the 2008 Olli Jokinen draft in Ottawa. Florida had taken the 49th pick from Phoenix in the Jokinen trade made the night before, then gave it back to the Coyotes to move up to 46 and take Robak. 

-- The Panthers won't be able to negotiate with goalie Jacob Markstrom until the World Championships are over later this month. Markstrom made Sweden's roster for the tournament.