Dale Tallon, the second-year GM of the Florida Panthers was nominated for NHL GM of the year on April 24. After only two years of Tallon's reconstruction plan, the Cats found themselves in the NHL playoffs, a place they hadn't been in over ten years.
Tallon made his name as a GM when he put together a Stanley Cup winning team with the 2009-10 Chicago Blackhawks. Fortunately for the Panthers Tallon accepted the challenge to rebuild their franchise on May 17 2010. The choice to leave Chicago must have been difficult for Tallon. He was a member of the Blackhawks as a player from 1970-80 and spent more then ten years in the Blackhawks' front office after his playing career was over.
The Cats didn't feel the effects of Tallon's presence in the 2010-11 season, they finished in last place in the Southeast Division and only won 30 games. Tallon's plan was apparent, trade big contracts and dead weight for solid youngsters in the draft supplemented by key free-agent signings. If the 2011-12 season is any indication of how the rebuild of the franchise is going, fans have a good reason to get exited.
Florida Panthers Draft Picks
Most of the draft picks over the last two years haven't seen the NHL ice yet but they are assuredly a good crop of young men that will carry the team for years to come. Some of Tallon's notable draft picks include Erik Gudbranson and Nick Bjugstad in 2010 as well as Jonathan Huberdeau and Rocco Grimaldi in 2011. Guddranson has already seen NHL action and if Huberdeau's stats in the minor leagues are any indication, he should be down in Sunrise within the next couple of years.
Tallon understood that fans don't have the patience to wait for several years for youngsters to mature in the minors. In response to the fan's demand for a winning team, Tallon did a masterful job constructing a contender by placing together the right free-agents. One of the most important acquisitions that Tallon made was that of veteran goaltender Jose Theodore. Theo was a 16 year NHL veteran with playoff experience that anchored the team between the pipes. Other notable free-agent signings included Mikael Samuelsson, Marcel Goc, and former Chicago Blackhawks Brian Campbell and Kris Versteeg. I like the fact that the Cats have managed to combine veterans like Samuelsson with young guns like Goc to form a good nucleus that they can build on using their minor league talent.
The Florida Panthers may be out of the 2012 NHL playoffs but the season was a huge victory for the team and the fans. When you look at where they came from, where they are now, and where they are heading, it's clear that Tallon should certainly be named GM of the year in 2012.
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Kristian Eberwein is a freelance journalist from Orlando, Florida. He was an English major at the University of Central Florida and has been a part of the Florida hockey community for the past twenty years. Follow him on Twitter @KrisEberwein
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