In Dale We Trust. It’s About Time.


Today’s music choice for your Wednesday is Walk by Foo Fighters.

For the past few months this morning post has been called “Daily Pucking Grind”.  I’ve become a bit bored with that, and I’ve given some thought to changing it to something different.  I might, or I might not.  That said, I felt that I wanted to give the title a day off and speak for our many fans not only of this site, but of the Florida Panthers as well.

You all know how things have been here the past few seasons.  Broken promises filled with broken down players.  Half full arena’s except when Canadian or New York teams came to town.  A revolving door of personnel in the front office that has included four general managers since 2001, and coach’s whose philosophy never melded with the players that they were given, or in ownerships’ direction of the franchise.  During each regime, every leader promised that things would change, that things would be different.  As passionate fans we believed in the rhetoric.  Many of us, myself included, continued to buy into what was being told to us.  As dedicated fans we had two choices: walk away until things got better, or hang in and wait for the change. How many rebuilds have we had since 2001?  Four, five?  1o?  Each one coming with disappointment or failure, yet with the promise that next season would be different.  Bad trades,combined with poor draft picks, fat contracts to players that weren’t worthy, and no direction other than going in circles.  The madness had to end or the franchise was risking playing in front of 10 patrons.  Including Mr. Knowsnothing in section 117.

Finally, after all the years of broken hearts, and shattered dreams, things are about to change.  When Dale Tallon was hired as the new General Manager for the Florida Panthers last summer, the hope was going for him to duplicate the job that he did with the Chicago Blackhawks, or even come close to it.  However some people wondered if this was all just another PR move to make us think that there was going to be a turnaround.  Prior to the start of last season Dale started his shredding the roster of players that didn’t want to be here, Nathan Horton, to players with inflated contracts that didn’t fit into his plans, Keith Ballard.  We kept hearing, “We have the blueprint”, “We know how to do it, and “It worked before, it will work again”.  I personally met Dale briefly after the final regular season game this year.  Shook his hand, and told him how pleased we were that he was here, and that we would be looking forward to the upcoming changes that were going to be made.  He looked me square in the eye and repeated that this franchise was going to get turned around.  He’s kept his word, and the blueprint is now in full force.

By dumping older players like Cory Stillman and Bryan McCabe at the trade deadline, he rid us of players who’s contracts were handcuffing our flexibility in the marketplace.  Dale acquired players who had deals that were expiring, and who most likely weren’t going to be here for the next season. Salary dumping yes, but the moves gave him flexibility to do what he has recently done by signing 8 free agents.  He may have sacrificed the balance of the season, but let’s face it, we all knew that we weren’t going anywhere, and it was the best way to give the Florida Panthers a fresh start.  It’s the old addition by subtraction analogy.   I give him full marks for finally being the one to get us to where we are right now.  No one is predicting or guaranteeing a Stanley Cup, or even a playoff slot, but unless you’ve been living under the Florida Turnpike, you have to agree that the roster as it stands right now is 1000 times better than any roster we’ve had… at least since the JM (Jacques Martin) era began.

Eight legitimate NHL ready player (some entering their prime) were acquired by Dale on Friday in what was a display of signing that no one has seen before.  Sure he was criticised by some in the media for potentially overpaying for a couple players, but don’t we all at some point and time?  And really, if we make the playoffs whether its this year or next, no one will be complaining as long as we get the performance.  The players that were acquired all offer something that we haven’t seen here in a very long time.  Sure, no one is a prolific goal scorer and we don’t have a superstar, but what we do have is a group of players that have solid character, are hard working, play with an edge, and most importantly want to be here.  Combine the eight players with the acquisition of Brian Campbell, (which allowed us to be rid of Rostislav Olesz), Tomas KopeckyKris Versteeg, and the hope that Erik Gudbranson will be here this coming season, the Florida Panthers can be a playoff contender in the Eastern Conference at the very least.  Other teams have improved, but so have we.  And for the first time in years we are all salivating over the signing of a Steven Reinprecht.

As a fan who has been very vocal and critical about wanting to have a winning product on the ice,  having watched the mistake prone and senseless hockey being played here previously, I am pleased with what I’ve seen with these moves so far.  I want to extend a sincere thanks to not only the Panther ownership group led by Cliff Viner and Stu Siegel, but to Dale Tallon himself for putting things in order, and working furiously to get this done.  According to NHL rules, we had to spend money to get to the salary cap floor.  We did.  Don’t be mad at us for that.  Don’t be mad at us for finally doing the right thing and begin to take the organization in the right direction.  Not every trade works, and not every free agent or drafted player lives up to the hype.  Florida knows that better than anyone else, but for the first time in years, we aren’t dependant on goaltending to save us.  We’ve spent money on a group of players that will add credibility to our team, and make us tougher to play against.  Hard work beats talent every time.  Ask some of those European players like the Sedin twins.  In addition, no one should want to see a franchise flounder, it’s bad for the game and it’s bad for the people involved with the team.

Hockey matters here.  Dale Tallon wouldn’t have taken the job if he didn’t think he could turn things around, and I don’t think ownership brought him here to be a yes man.  He wanted the keys to the car, and it appears he has them.  So far Dale, I like your driving.

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