Dale Tallon, 63, has done just about everything in hockey. He’s played, he’s broadcasted and he’s served as an executive, even winning a Stanley Cup with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2010.
Playing is pretty self-explanatory, but when asked which is better – being a broadcaster or general manager – Tallon didn’t hesitate.
“Calling games was easy,” the Florida Panthers general manager said on Ferrall on the Bench. “The game was over and you had 13 or 14 beers and go to sleep and then wake up and do the next game. But no, I love every second of this. I love hockey and I’m passionate about what’s going on in Florida.”
What’s been going on lately, unfortunately for Tallon, has been a fair bit of losing. The Panthers went 29-45-8 this past season and fired interim coach Peter Horachek.
Tallon, however, likes where the franchise is headed.
“I just met with Vinnie Viola, the owner, and we’re interviewing coaches,” Tallon said. “We won the lottery, we’re going to have a great pick, we we got (Roberto) Luongo in net and we got money to spend on free agency. It’s starting to percolate here, and I’m excited about it.”
Viola, a West Point guy, bought the franchise less than a year ago.
“I was excited because I read about him and did some homework on him,” Tallon said. “Genuine guy, passionate guy, honest, virtuous man and wants to win – and that’s all I want to do. We have a lot of similarities and we’re passionate about the Florida Panthers, so it’s going to be great.”
“Everything’s on the up and up. I’m excited.”
Dan Bylsma is one of the coaches in the mix for the Panthers.
“I like him a lot,” Tallon aid. “I’ve gotten to know Dan through Team USA. I’m on the advisory board, so I got to know him a couple of years ago when the world championships were in Finland. I think he’s a really good coach and a really good person and we’re excited to (be talking with him).”
Bylsma, 43, led Pittsburgh to the Stanley Cup in 2009 but has since endured a series of postseason flame-outs. He went 51-24-7 this year, but that was not enough to save his job, especially since the Penguins were eliminated in the conference semifinals.
“I think he did a great job there,” Tallon said. “Sometimes in this business, you do a really good job and you get (fired). It happened to me in Chicago and hopefully it won’t happen again. But that’s just the nature of the beast. Six years as a head coach in one place is an eternity. Two-and-a-half years is the average now.”
“We’re giving it a good shot,” Tallon continued. “We still have other guys that we’re talking to. We started interviewing 12 coaches and now we’ve narrowed it down to a handful. Dan coming into the mix has probably changed some of it a little bit, but we’re going to give it our best shot and get the best possible coach.”
Florida will also welcome back Luongo, who played for the Panthers from 2000-06 before getting traded to Vancouver. Now, Luongo is back in Sunrise, Fla.
“We were fortunate because he wanted to come back in the worst way,” Tallon said. “We were able to make a deal that we thought would be a real important deal for our franchise on and off the ice because he was a popular guy in the community and he’s a world-class guy.”
Luongo, 35, is as veteran as it gets, but the Panthers will also have new blood next season, as they have the top pick in the draft.
“This draft is better than people said it was going to be,” Tallon said. “I think the first 30 are really solid players.”
Top prospects include Sam Reinhart, Samuel Bennett, Aaron Ekblad, Leon Draisaitl, Nikolaj Ehlers and William Nylander.
“There’s a whole list of really good forwards sprinkled in with a couple of young defensemen in the first 10 players,” Tallon said. “We’re confident that we’re going to do the best thing here for our franchise.”