Old GM Dale Tallon named new Panthers GM to end dysfunction

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The Florida Panthers named Dale Tallon as their new general manager on Monday morning.

If that name sounds familiar, it’s because Tallon was the general manager for the Panthers around this time a year ago, and from May 2010 through to May 2016, before being unceremoniously kicked upstairs as the team’s President of Hockey Operations.

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So what’s old is new again when your team is a flaming dumpster fire after winning a division title one year earlier …

From the Panthers:

“I am confident that we have the necessary talent throughout our organization to win the Stanley Cup,” owner Vinny Viola said. “Dale will continue to be our principle leader as we pursue this single goal.”

Tom Rowe, 60, will no longer serve as Florida Panthers General Manager and Interim Head Coach. Rowe will remain with the organization as Special Advisor to Panthers President of Hockey Operations and General Manager Dale Tallon.

Tallon, 66, will immediately begin the search for the next Panthers head coach. “We have the talent to get back on track in a hurry,” Tallon said. “This was a difficult year for us, but I think we learned some tough lessons about what it takes to win consistently in the NHL. With a few tweaks to our roster and the right leadership, I’m confident we can get back to contending for the Stanley Cup next season.”

Tom Rowe was named GM on May 8 of last year, with Eric Joyce, who was the general manager of the Portland Pirates since 2014, and Steve Werier, the Panthers’ VP of legal and business affairs, named assistant general managers. It Rowe’s first general managing gig in the NHL. He joined their front office on Jan. 1, 2016, after coaching their AHL affiliate for three years.

The underlying narrative at the time was that the Panthers wanted to take their front office in a different, more analytics-based direction. And that led to another shocking turn a few months into the season.

On Nov. 27, Rowe fired coach Gerard Gallant, who was Tallon’s hire, and named himself interim head coach. Rowe’s Panthers played to a 24-27-10 record, failing to make the playoffs. Gallant was 11-9-1 when he was fired.

In December, there were reports that the Panthers had put Tallon back in charge of the day-to-day operations of the team, working with Joyce and Werier as a braintrust. The Panthers claimed this was just a formality, as Tallon had been in that role all season. But truth be told, Tallon’s role did change around that time, and he became “reengaged” with the Panthers. Tallon had the wheel for the team’s trade deadline, for example.

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Now, Rowe is out as coach and general manager, and will serve in some nebulous “special advisor” capacity that reads very much like “well, we have to pay him for something.

There’s going to be heavy speculation that this is the culmination of a power struggle within the Panthers organization. There’s been talk that Viola has his guys and Panthers part owner Doug Cifu had his.

But apparently, nothing brings warring factions together like a terrible reversal of fortunes.

Rowe wasn’t the right man for either job, despite the obvious hope that he was ready to manage the franchise in moving Tallon out of the GM chair last spring. You can follow the timeline to figure out how quickly the distrust grew: Rowe was the general manager, then he was the GM and the coach – the organization backed the Gallant firing, for the record – and then he was just a coach with Tallon getting back into the day-to-day operations.

And now he’s Milton from “Office Space,” asking about a stapler somewhere in the storage room.

Team management rallied around the idea that Tallon was the solution to a problem of their own making. Some might see this odd, circular decision as another dysfunctional moment for the franchise, but honestly it’s the opposite: It’s the recognition of that dysfunction, and a safe, steady choice to rectify it. This team needed a veteran executive as its general manager. This team didn’t need one from outside the organization, in yet another reinvention of a team that’s had more regenerations than Doctor Who.

So they get a steady veteran who is already, in Vinny Viola terms, in the chain of command.

Welcome to the first day of the new old Florida Panthers.

Greg Wyshynski is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter. His book, TAKE YOUR EYE OFF THE PUCK, is available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.

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