Jason Brough

2014 NHL Draft - Rounds 2-7

For Tallon, new role means less contract negotiating and more time to ‘freeze my rear end off’ scouting

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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.

Maatta appears to be healthy scratch, replaced by Schultz

PITTSBURGH, PA - APRIL 16:  Olli Maatta #3 of the Pittsburgh Penguins skates in Game Two of the Eastern Conference First Round during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs against the New York Rangers at Consol Energy Center on April 16, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

While Pittsburgh Penguins coach Mike Sullivan would only say that all six of his defensemen would be a “game-time decision,” it sure looks like defenseman Olli Maatta will be a healthy scratch tonight against the Lightning, replaced by Justin Schultz.

Clues include Maatta staying later than Schultz at this morning’s skate, and Maatta practicing on the fourth pairing yesterday.

Also consider Sullivan’s criticism of Maatta’s defending on Alex Killorn‘s opening goal in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final.

“Olli, his positioning put him in a vulnerable situation on that particular goal, made it hard for him, difficult for him to recover,” said Sullivan. “Obviously, I think we would have liked that one back.”

Schultz, 25, has only dressed for three of the Pegnuins’ playoff games, once against the Rangers and twice against the Capitals. Most notably, he logged 17:56 in Game 4’s overtime victory versus Washington, when Kris Letang was suspended and Maatta was injured.

“Justin Schultz is a good player,” Sullivan said this morning. “I’ve said this all along that what he’s brought to our team is his mobility, his ability to make a first pass. He sees the ice pretty well. He has good offensive instincts. He can help us on a power play. He joins the rush extremely well. Those are all of his strengths. Those are the main reasons why our people thought he could help our team when we acquired him, and he’s done that for us when he’s played.”

French d-man Auvitu reportedly drawing NHL interest

PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC - MAY 05:  Rapahel Herburger (R) of Austria and Yohann Auvitu (L) of France battle for the puck during the IIHF World Championship group A match between Austria and France at o2 Arena on May 5, 2015 in Prague, Czech Republic.  (Photo by Martin Rose/Getty Images)

Given the many NHL teams that will be trying to upgrade their blue lines this summer, it’s no surprise that scouts are searching far and wide for help.

Take French defenseman Yohann Auvitu of HIFK Helsinki, currently representing France at the worlds. TSN’s Darren Dreger says there’s “some NHL interest” in him, while Finnish hockey writer Juha Hiitelä says he heard the same thing, that a “few” NHL teams are interested.

Auvitu, 26, was the recipient of the 2015-16 Pekka Rautakallio Trophy for the best defenseman in the Liiga — an award that’s previously gone to the likes of Sami Vatanen and Brian Rafalski.

Auvitu had six goals and 15 assists in 48 games, then six goals and seven assists in 18 playoff games.

Only three French-born players were in the NHL this season: Philadelphia’s Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Detroit’s Xavier Ouellet, and Dallas’ Antoine Roussel.

According to Hiitelä, Auvitu wants to go to the NHL. The KHL is Plan B.

Related: Blues sign promising Finnish goalie Ville Husso

Penguins are 9/5 favorites to win Stanley Cup: online bookmaker


A fat lot of good it did for the Washington Capitals, but the Pittsburgh Penguins are the betting favorites to win the Stanley Cup, according to online bookmaker Bovada.

The odds for the remaining four teams:

Pittsburgh Penguins — 9/5
St. Louis Blues — 2/1
San Jose Sharks — 4/1
Tampa Bay Lightning — 17/4

That the Bolts won’t have Steven Stamkos or Anton Stralman to start their series with the Pens is undoubtedly a factor in the odds. And, of course, Pittsburgh has been playing extremely well and the star-studded Penguins are a popular team with bettors.

Not surprisingly, the Penguins also feature prominently in the odds to win the Conn Smythe Trophy. Despite a quiet second round, Sidney Crosby is the favorite at 9/2, with Phil Kessel (19/2) and Evgeni Malkin (10/1), and Matt Murray (11/1) not far behind.

Full Conn Smythe odds


Here are PHT’s conference final predictions

TAMPA, FL - FEBRUARY 5: Patric Hornqvist #72 of the Pittsburgh Penguins shoots past Jason Garrison #5 of the Tampa Bay Lightning to score  during the first period at the Amalie Arena on February 5, 2016 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images)

Twelve series down, just three to go.

Unlike the first round, the second round was mostly successful for PHT’s prognosticators. Nobody went below .500, even the virtual coin. All the humans picked the Blues over the Stars, and everyone including the virtual coin had the Sharks over the Predators. Also, props to O’Brien, who nailed “Penguins in six” on the nose.

Of course, we shouldn’t pat ourselves too hard on the back, because with the elimination of the Washington Capitals, nobody’s Stanley Cup pick is still alive. While it’s true that Halford picked the Lightning in the preseason, he changed his mind to the Blackhawks before the playoffs. So that was a good call.

Second-round results (Overall record)

Brough: 3-1 (8-4)
Halford: 3-1 (7-5)
O’Brien: 3-1 (8-4)
Dadoun: 2-2 (5-7)
Tucker: 3-1 (8-4)
Alfieri: 3-1 (7-5)
Just Flip A Coin: 2-2 (5-7)

On to the conference finals….

Pittsburgh Penguins versus Tampa Bay Lightning

Brough: Penguins in 7
Halford: Penguins in 7
O’Brien: Penguins in 7
Dadoun: Penguins in 7
Tucker: Penguins in 6
Alfieri: Penguins in 6
Just Flip A Coin: Penguins

(Prove us wrong, Bolts!)

St. Louis Blues versus San Jose Sharks

Brough: Sharks in 6*
Halford: Blues in 7
O’Brien: Sharks in 6
Dadoun: Blues in 7
Tucker: Sharks in 7
Alfieri: Sharks in 7
Just Flip A Coin: Blues

*This was a tough call, since I picked the Blues to make the final in the preseason. I feel in a way like I’m abandoning them, but at the same time I’m excited for my new life with the Sharks.