March 16, 2017, 3:38 PM ET [3 Comments]
Florida Panthers Blogger • RSS • Archive • CONTACT
When the Florida Panthers traded for Thomas Vanek at the deadline, it was such a Dale Tallon type of move.
Trading away Dylan McIlrath, who likely never had a future in Florida, and a conditional 2017 third round draft pick to Detroit was the type of shrewd, smart move Tallon is known for.
Vanek setting a career high with four assists in Tuesday's 7-2 win against Toronto was evidence of how important such a player could be for seasons to come if he decides to stay in Florida. GM/interim head coach Tom Rowe gave all credit to Tallon for seeking out and making the deal.
When Rowe publicly called out Reilly Smith for a defensive gaffe costing the Panthers the game against Dallas, most assumed that was the nail in the coffin in him officially losing the locker room.
The player Leadership Council told Rowe they did not appreciate him singling out a player in such a way.
When the team continued it's unacceptable tailspin over the last few weeks, destroying all the momentum gained after a 5-0 Western Conference road trip in February, it was Tallon Rowe called on to address the team to reaffirm management's belief in the players.
The players love Tallon. The media loves Tallon. Tallon is a straight shooter and a wise roster assembler. Look no further than Chicago where Tallon is still lauded for beginning the mini-dynasty the Blackhawks have become in recent years.
When the changes in Florida management started happening, Tallon received a "promotion" to President of Hockey Operations, and the movement towards the "analytical" model began, there were concerns about Tallon once again being pushed out from another blossoming club that he built.
But when the toughest of times hit over the last few weeks, it was Tallon that was called on to make the deals and rally the troops. Sometimes that old school voice/moxie is needed when trying to be too cute isn't working.
What we are seeing is this new school mentality cannot be solely relied upon to bring the desired result.
The "old guard" that is slowly being discarded as antiquated may just have the right attitude when needed to right the ship.
Tallon has more NHL experience than everyone else in the front office combined...by far...as both a player and in the front office. He has seen and knows things with the eye test that analytics will never pick up.
He is keenly aware of the infinite nuances it takes to build a winning club.
For a while it looked as if the new-look Panthers management was going build their roster the way they wanted in spite of Tallon...until they needed him.
It cannot be overstated how vital Tallon is to the success of this organization over the next few years as this young, and hopefully healthy, team comes into its own.
But here is the flip side.
Outside of Reimer, who I've stated many times was the most important signing last summer, both Jonathan Marchessault and Colton Sceviour were "analytics signings." Would they have been on Tallon's radar as well with full control? Perhaps, but probably not.
Assistant GM Eric Joyce, Rowe, and company were instrumental in bringing these two very important players to Sunrise. Marchessault is unquestionably the best free agent signing in the NHL and should be considered a key piece long term.
Sceviour is a key component of the best penalty kill unit in the NHL and has three shorthanded goals on the season. He also has been clutch out of the blue multiple times this year with timely goals resulting in wins.
Despite their lack of toughness, which should be helped when Ian McCoshen joins the club in the near future, the defensive unit is one of the best offensively. Keith Yandle, Jason Demers, and Mark Pysyk were also analytics signings that have largely worked out well.
This is where the Tallon mentality and the greener front office differ the most. While Tallon was said to have signed off on the Erik Gudbranson trade last summer, it was probably more of the financial demands Gudbranson's camp was asking for than wanting to ship the toughest player on the team out of town.
That trade may have single-handedly set in motion the struggles this year. Analytically Gudbranson might not have been a standout player. But he was the heart and soul of the team and brought the thunder when needed.
Former head coach Gerard Gallant loved him. His fellow players loved him. The fans loved him.
Gallant publicly and privately called out management for making the Panthers softer than last year's most successful team in franchise history. Like Tallon, Gallant knows analytics can never be the end all, be all for putting a roster together.
He's right. The way he expressed his frustration, by his own admission, was too much.
Then came Rowe. Then came insurmountable injuries. Then came a 2-7-1 over the last three weeks that likely doomed the season.
Despite all the hate and frustration amongst the Panther fan base, 31 games as a healthy team is not enough data to know what this team is or could be over 82.
That is not to say these last three weeks are acceptable. The are not. The plane has crashed into the mountain.
The Gallant to Rowe transition has turned into disaster right when it looked like things were coming together. The public relations fallout has been even more negative. It won't take you long to find someone calling for Rowe's head on daily basis.
While Gallant likely would not have gotten much more out of such a decimated squad, that is of no matter to those that hate to hate. Rowe is a very nice, likable person. But that means nothing when you realize the scope of disdain for him.
He has a bit of old school in him as well, but he's also more on board with the analytics side than the majority of the old guard. While Rowe was more in on Marchessault and Sceviour than Reimer and Vanek, do the fans have enough data to decide which way works better?
Of course all teams use analytics in today's NHL. It's that the Panthers have proclaimed it to be there focus that has everyone waiting to laugh in their face when they are mathematically eliminated from the playoffs with a roster that is very talented in a mediocre Atlantic Division.
Tallon doesn't like contract negotiations, but he sure likes scouting and dealing to make his team the best it can be. To give him full control wouldn't be the worst thing in the world based on his resume.
The analytics team has also done well to bring in valuable pieces for the future.
Where is the balance? What is Tallon's value in the shadow of a young management team looking to make a new mark on how NHL clubs do business?
Losing Gallant eliminated the likable, established, old school grit this team thrived upon. It would be even more damaging to limit Tallon's role in terms of toughening this team up based on what he SEES, not what some spreadsheet determines.
Tallon may never be able to have full personnel control like he did in Chicago and the early days in Florida ever again.
But when the team needed a new voice and a deal to get better, Tallon is the person they needed. It would be a shame to keep limiting his role when he is likely the most important figure in the front office in terms of getting this team where it needs to go.
Tallon surely praises the rest of management for the Marchessault/Sceviour signings. He also mentioned to me in San Jose he definitely knows the value of analytics in the player evaluation process.
But moving forward he'd probably like to get his hands dirty creating more balance between toughness and skill this roster currently lacks.
Until someone else proves they can do it better, let him do it. The Panthers already had it. It's what he does.