Dale Tallon doesn’t see it as a demotion disguised as a promotion. The now former general manager of the Florida Panthers sees the reorganization of the hockey operations department as a way to avoid doing the things he didn’t really like doing anyway.
Today, the Panthers announced that Tallon had been “promoted” to president of hockey ops, with assistant GM Tom Rowe becoming the new general manager. In addition, Eric Joyce and Steve Werier were named assistant GMs.
“I wasn’t a big fan of doing contracts,” said Tallon on a conference call. “It frees me up to do what I think I do best, and that’s go scout, evaluate talent, mentor our young guys, and help develop them. That’s basically what I like to do. I like going to rinks. I like freezing my rear end off in these little rinks. That’s what I enjoy most about this job.”
Despite the positive spin that Tallon put on it, the shakeup is an indication of how complex running an NHL team has become, and how much more money is at stake. It’s no longer enough to just know the game and have an eye for talent. Specialization is required. So is delegation.
Werier, for example, was a lawyer before he joined the Panthers; now he’s in charge of negotiating player contracts and is responsible for managing the team’s salary cap. The club also has a director of analytics named Brian MacDonald; he received a Ph.D. in Mathematics from Johns Hopkins University.
For the record, the Panthers insist they won’t be all about analytics now, that more subjective things like chemistry and leadership still need to be part of the equation. They’re not going all-in on just numbers.
They also insist that Tallon is still the man in charge. “I have the utmost confidence in Dale’s vision and leadership,” said owner Vincent Viola.
But let’s face it, for all the blue-chip talent the Panthers have amassed since Tallon became the GM in 2010, there’s also been the odd highly questionable decision, like giving Dave Bolland a five-year, $27.5 million contract.
That’s the kind of deal that can really hamstring a team that’s up against the cap — the kind of deal the Panthers’ reorganized hockey ops department will hope to avoid going forward, as Florida’s young, cheap talent develops into big-money talent and cap space becomes more scarce.