The Florida Panthers are 2-3-3 since firing Gerard Gallant as head coach, including a 5-1 embarrassment at the hands of the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday night.
The embarrassment was intensified when the interim coach, Tom Rowe, was heard delivering a profane indictment of his players on the bench. “Guys have got to understand, if you’re going to play in the National Hockey League, you got to show up every day,” Rowe told the Miami Herald. “You can’t show up when you feel like it.”
It’s clear the Panthers are in a tailspin right now. In the eight games with Rowe behind the bench, they’ve been outscored 24-14 despite outshooting their opponents by 41 shots. Their goaltending (a putrid .894 save percentage) has been sieve. Their power play has been a humiliating 2-for-28, and is last place in the league with a 12.6 percent conversion rate.
Who can help pull them out of this tailspin?
Well, perhaps the guy that Rowe replaced as general manager.
Darren Dreger of TSN reports that Dale Tallon, kicked upstairs after last season into a president of hockey operations role that didn’t involve the day-to-day running of the Panthers, is back in charge of the hockey operations of the team.
Rowe is going to coach the team for the rest of the regular season. Eric Joyce, the assistant general manager and a guy ownership hopes blossoms into a GM one day, worked under Tallon as GM of the AHL San Antonia Rampage and then under Rowe as assistant GM. Now, presumably, he’s working under Tallon again.
As Alex Prewitt noted in Sports Illustrated, the Panthers seemed to be headed in a non-traditional direction:
[Joyce] offers suggestions on micro levels, like telling Rowe about in-game matchups that stats say could work well, and has big-picture influence too. Joyce pushed hard to trade with the Bruins for Reilly Smith, who had 25 goals last season and now tops all Panthers wingers in ice time. Caldwell says that Joyce also “really led the movement” in bypassing the bridge deal phase with their young core – Smith, Aaron Ekblad, Vincent Trocheck, Jonathan Huberdeau – and instead locking them into long-term deals. He recently showed the team’s five-year financial projection to Joyce, just to “let him poke holes.”
To the hockey world, Joyce’s ascension reflects Florida’s broader cultural shift. Tallon still has personnel sway, particularly in amateur scouting, but the ranks are otherwise populated by relatively new faces, all considered outsiders by industry standard: Caldwell, Joyce, Virtu partner Doug Cifu (vice chairman), former lawyer Steve Werier (assistant GM/capologist), and former West Point math professor Brian MacDonald (director of analytics). Crashing the barbecue and all that. “I never felt like I had to impress anybody,” Joyce says. “ I was never afraid someone from the old school would say, ‘What the f— do you know about hockey? You never played professionally.’ Well, I didn’t know s— about running a village, either. And I did it.”
Anyhoo, Tallon takes the wheel at a critical time for the Panthers, who are 13-13-4 and just four points in back of the Ottawa Senators and the Boston Bruins in the Atlantic Division playoff seeds.
Which begs the question: Is this really a case where ownership is willing to double back on its plans to hand managerial power to a committee of “outsiders” while going back to Tallon several months after diminishing his managerial power?
Or is this a ploy to calm down worried fans and frustrated players whose heads are still spinning over the sudden coaching change, and the middling returns it’s caused? In effect, buying Rowe some time to turn the team around – or, more simply, to wait until the goaltending and power play are back on the upswing?
Let’s take it one step further: Gallant’s firing allegedly pissed off “hockey people” who were already pissed off over the way Tallon, a very popular executive, was treated. The Panthers need to make some moves. Who’s more likely to get a call back: Tallon or Eric Joyce?
These are the days of our Panthers. Tune in tomorrow for the next twist …
MORE FROM YAHOO SPORTS