On May 17th, 2010 the Florida Panthers hired the architect of the soon to be Stanley Cup Winning Chicago Blackhawks, Dale Tallon, replacing Randy Sexton. The Panthers were used to having to hire different general managers, as the team went through several miserable seasons over the past number of years.
When Tallon was first brought into the Panthers he knew that he must change multiple things. With the team not making the playoffs in over a decade things needed to be changed. Tallon had a very successful first draft with the Panthers, selecting players such as stud defender Erik Gudbranson and then 18 year old center, Nick Bjugstad. Not only did Tallon make excellent draft choices, but by also making several moves to acquire extra picks to make selections that would help the team look forward to the future.
After the successful draft, Tallon knew that the following season might be a tough one, and he was right. The team finished in last place in the Southeast Division and in the Eastern Conference. Despite the terrible finish Tallon gave the fans something they can look forward to he blew up a majority of the team at the trade deadline, clearing plenty of salary cap while stocking up on draft picks. Even though the Panthers and the fans were forced to sit through another lack luster season, they had plenty of faith in Dale Tallon because of his success with Chicago. With players like Bryan Allen, Radek Dvorak, and Dennis Wideman gone the team finished the season winning only one of their last ten games.
With the rebuilding process fully underway, everyone was hoping for a more successful rebuild than from previous years. Tallon started off the offseason by firing head coach Peter DeBoer, who is now head coach of the New Jersey Devils. With the team now looking for DeBoer’s new successor, Tallon wanted to make sure they hired the right guy for the job. After searching for more than a month on trying to find the candidate, Tallon found his guy, Kevin Dineen. With the team finding their new coach and the offseason fully underway, the team went right to work on getting the players they wanted. On July 1st, 2011, Tallon went right to work signing forwards Scottie Upshall, Sean Bergenheim, Tomas Fleischmann, and trading for former Stanley Cup winner Kris Versteeg. With newly signed offensive weapons, Tallon began to look towards the defensive side, by signing former Panther, Ed Jovanovski and former Hart and Vezina trophy winning goalie, Jose Theodore. With the number of new free agent and trade acquisitions, the team continued looking for more players that can help contribute to the team. During the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, the Panthers continued to be aggressive as they traded winger Rostislav Olesz to the Chicago Blackhawks for former cup winner Brian Campbell.
The team continued to draft more young offensive talent during the 2011 draft as players such as center Jonathan Huberdeau and center Rocco Grimaldi. With Tallon continuing to build the team how he wants it, the Panthers had higher expectations than normal. With new players and new coaching staff the entire culture of the team. The 2011-2012 season brought something for the fans that wasn’t seen in a long time, hope. The fans had hope. On June 6th 2011, the team launched the “We See Red” campaign which signifies the Panthers new found passion, desire, and commitment to being successful.
Since taking over office for the Panthers, Dale Tallon has done a lot. He took a team that isn’t used too much success. He took a team and completely transformed them. He took a team and brought them from the bottom of a division and quickly turned them into a legitimate contender. The Panthers, a team who only made the playoffs three times and never won their division are now not only playoff contenders yet again, but also division winners for the first time in the franchise’s history.
Due to all of the success during the season, Dale Tallon has been nominated along with Doug Armstrong of the St. Louis Blues and David Poile of the Nashville Predator for the general manager of the year award. All three of these GM did a great job this past season, taking their teams to the playoffs and completely changing their respective team’s identity. It is no doubt going to be a tough decision as all three GM’s deserve to win this award.
Despite the three of these GM’s having such successful seasons, I believe that Dale Tallon should win the award. Tallon did something that is not only very rare but also extremely difficult to do. He took over a team that has had seasons constantly ending with disappointment and turned them into a winner. Before Tallon arrived in Florida, the Panthers never had been division winners. In just his second season as a GM, Tallon turned the team around by bringing in players and coaches that he knew would be essential to the Panthers turnaround. Not only was he able to bring the team a first division title, he also was able to do it under a first year head coach. After completely dissembling the team, Tallon signed and traded for 10 new players over the offseason. Those are three very good reasons as to why Tallon should be named general manager of the year. It is almost unheard of for a team to sign a first year coach and bring in almost a brand new team and win the division all in the same year. In a region of Florida that had all the attention on the Miami Heat and Miami Dolphins, Tallon took a non-hockey town and turned it into one. The Panthers have played in front of their largest crowds ever as the team continues to sells out playoff games.
It is no question that Dale Tallon has been a savior for the Panthers. With disappointment after disappointment Tallon came in and quickly made a difference as the Panthers came from the bottom feeders of the division and eastern conference, to top dogs of both.
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Topics: Brian Campbell, Bryan Allen, Chicago Blackhawks, Dale Tallon, Dennis Wideman, Ed Jovannovski, Erik Gudbranson, Florida Panthers, Kris Versteeg, Nashville Predators, Radek Dvorak, Scottie Upshall, Sean Bergenheim, St. Lousi Blues, Tomas Flesichmann