Tell me: What screams credibility to you?
When you see a 16-year-old kid on the corner rockin’ with an iPod and a GIANT sign in the shape of an arrow that advertises, “Furniture Liquidation—Everything Must Go,” I doubt you’d trust the strange kid with your first born. When you see a lawyer’s face on the back of a bus stop bench, you probably aren’t racing to put him on retainer. You get the idea.
But when a guy was the major architect for a Stanley Cup Champion? I might put a little blind trust into what he has to say about building a team. When a guy was part of a winning organization for 20+ years and put together a Gold Medal winning team, I’ll probably have confidence in that guy too.
For the first time in ages (read: 15 years of their existence), both NHL franchises in Florida look like they’re on the right track in the front office. Both teams have had their problems over the last few years, but there’s no question that Steve Yzerman and Dale Tallon bring instant credibility to their new respective organizations. For the first time in years, fans in both markets can take the leap of faith that their teams are making the right moves to pull themselves out of the gutter of the standings.
After a string of guys like Len Barrie, Oren Koules, Rick Tocchet, and Barry Melrose, the Tampa Bay Lightning finally have a face for their franchise that commands respect. Further south in Sunrise, the Panthers were lucky enough to procure (in many ways) the GM who put together the defending Stanley Cup Champions. Somehow, that says more than a team that looks like it’s treading water with a never ending stream of high draft picks and underachievers. It seems simple—have a plan to rebuild, trust the guy doing the rebuilding, and stick to it. For the first time in a while, both the Panthers and the Lightning have parts 1 and 2 covered at the same time. Only time will tell if they stick to it.
When you stop and think about it, it’s amazing that a first-time NHL General Manager like Steve Yzerman has as much clout as the former Red Wings captain has. But this isn’t your ordinary rookie GM—there’s some serious pedigree here. He pieced together the Canadian Olympic team from players all over the NHL to find the right blend of skill, toughness and chemistry to build a team that could compete and succeed under the most intense pressure an athlete can imagine. People would have bashed him if they didn’t succeed with the players at his disposal, but they should be just as quick to compliment him for fantastic job under insane demands. He rode shotgun next to the best GM of the last decade in Ken Holland. He was able to see how he dealt with player development and salary cap issues, as well as piecing a together a team that was expected to compete at the highest level every single year.
“They are hiring the right people, good people, and I think that’s a great start.” –Vinny Lecavalier
Long story short: He has experience with an organization that the Lightning dream of becoming one day. That’s not a knock on the Bolts; the same could be said for 20-25 different teams around the league. They just get it done—plain and simple. He’s such a part of the Red Wings fabric that people automatically associate their excellence with anything he touches.
Will that resume help him build a model franchise that competes for the Southwest Division Championship each year? Maybe, maybe not. But it will give him the benefit of the doubt.
But Yzerman won’t be the only newly crowned GM in Florida who will be getting the benefit of the doubt. Dale Tallon is bringing a certain cache to South Beach that only a Stanley Cup can produce. In a place that would be happy with a team that could consistently reach the playoffs, he’s bringing experience coming from a team that just successfully navigated past 15 other playoff teams to reach the top of the mountain.
“You have to start with goaltending and defense and work your way out. We wanted to make a good deal, a fair deal. Getting a first round pick and getting a defenseman, this was a good match. We wanted a first round pick, a right handed shot to help our power play. In the long run, want to build through the draft. We had a lot of partners, lot of scenarios. This one made the most sense.” –Dale Tallon
Yet it’s not just the Blackhawks championship that brings hope to the floundering organization. It’s how he won that championship. The Blackhawks were struggling at the beginning part of the decade. Tallon and his staff completely tore down the team from top to bottom and started over from scratch. By knocking the high draft picks out of the park (Kane, Toews, Seabrook), striking lightning in 2nd day picks (Keith, Byfuglien), and free agent signings (Campbell, Hossa), Tallon has proven that he can build a team from cellar-dweller to Stanley Cup Champion. As it stands now, the Panthers have the first part of the equation taken care of—so they’re looking forward to Dale Tallon making moves to get the ship pointed in the right direction. For the first time since rats hit the ice, there should be confidence throughout the organization and fan base.
In his first draft with the Panthers, Tallon made a hell of a splash. Want a potential cornerstone defenseman? Say hello to Erik Gudbranson. Want a big center who has clear NHL potential? Say hello to fellow 1st rounders Nick Bjugstad and Quinton Howden. Want a guy who has the skill set that could make him a Top 6 forward in the NHL? Say hello to John McFarland. And what about another defenseman that could provide some depth at the NHL level–not the AHL level? Say hello to Alexander Petrovic. When you acquire 5 picks in the top 36, you’ll be saying hello to a ton of prospects. But from all accounts, they are welcoming the RIGHT players into Florida’s prospect system.
Only time will tell if Yzerman and Tallon will have successful tenures in their new positions. But for the time being, both the Lightning and Panthers look like they have the right guy in the right position at the right time. Just as important as any moves they make to the roster; right now both individuals have been successful enough to bring some of their glow to their respective organizations. Are they going to make mistakes? Of course they are. Hell, half of Massachusetts will tell you Tallon made a mistake by acquiring Dennis Wideman in any capacity. But at least in the short term, both executives have earned the benefit of the doubt.
That’s more than either team has had in a while.