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
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.''
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
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
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
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
"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.