BY GEORGE RICHARDS grichards@MiamiHerald.com
NEWARK, N.J. – Of all the members of the Florida Panthers up for postseason awards, only one was considered an absolute lock to be a finalist in his category.
On Tuesday, Dale Tallon was officially named one of three finalist for the NHL's General Manager of the Year Award. Tallon joins Nashville's David Poile and Doug Armstrong of St. Louis for the honors; the winner will be announced at the league's award show in Las Vegas on June 20.
“I feel honored to be selected by my peers,'' Tallon said before Florida took on the host Devils in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference's opening round series.
“For me, it's an honor that is represented by our staff. .-.-. It takes an army. I'm proud of our efforts from our whole team. It's been a fun couple of years.''
Tallon took over a mess in Florida when he was hired in May 2010 and was given more financial allowance than his predecessors. One of Tallon's demands before taking over for Randy Sexton was more money for scouting and hockey operations.
By all accounts, Tallon and his staff – led by assistant GM Mike Santos and head of amateur scouting Scott Luce – have done a great job stockpiling young talent.
Tallon set the tone for his era in South Florida early on, trading Nathan Horton to Boston for a first round pick and defenseman Dennis Wideman. Tallon went to his first draft and ended up with 13 picks – including three in the opening round.
Erik Gudbranson, the third overall pick of the 2010 draft, is a mainstay on Florida's blueline. The Panthers prospect system was ranked tops in the league by The Hockey News.
Aside from bringing in strong young players, Tallon also absolutely remade the Panthers roster in his short time in Sunrise.
When the Panthers played in Game 5 on Saturday, there were 15 players in uniform who weren't with Florida last season. Five of those players weren't even here on Opening Night as Tallon swung deals for the likes of Mikael Samuelsson, Marco Sturm, John Madden and Jerred Smithson during the season.
“Every day you try to get better,'' Tallon said. “I'm proud of our team, the character and professionalism. There's a love for the game and a respect for the organization. This has been a fun year because I have fun players who care.''
Tallon had a tough decision to make last season when it came to his head coach. Pete DeBoer was Tallon's first coach in Florida but the two didn't get along at the end as DeBoer got frustrated as it was obvious Tallon was looking toward the future.
Around last year's trade deadline, Tallon dumped most of his veteran players – and the contracts that went with them – as the Panthers faded from postseason contention.
By the end of last season, the Panthers looked like an AHL team with a few major leaguers on rehab assignment. DeBoer was fired the day after the season and Kevin Dineen was brought in. DeBoer was hired to coach the Devils in July.
“I think that's a good reflection on his staff,'' Dineen said. “Good players make a good organization and he's been able to identify guys who can come in and help us do what we want to accomplish.''
--Although Tallon will be headed to Vegas for the awards show, Panthers winger Tomas Fleischmann will not.
Fleischmann was not one of the three finalists for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy, which is awarded “to the player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.''
That award is voted on by the Professional Hockey Writers' Association.
--Jason Garrison (lower body) missed his third straight game as he hasn't been on the ice since Thursday's morning skate. Florida also scratched Jose Theodore (lower body), Keaton Ellerby, Wotjek Wolski, Krys Barch and Mike Santorelli.
--Panthers president Michael Yormark was involved in a Twitter controversy Tuesday after getting into a few arguments with Devils fans.
On Monday, Yormark blamed Devils fans throwing a few rubber rats onto the ice late in Saturday's win as the reason the NHL asked the team to stop selling them at the team store inside the arena.
After being engaged by a number of New Jersey loyalists, Yormark told one to “get a life,'' and another to “get off Twitter.''
“It's all in fun,'' Yormark tweeted before the game.