Rozner: Ex-Blackhawks Quenneville, Tallon form interesting pair

  • Florida Panthers NHL hockey team General Manager Dale Tallon, left, and Joel Quenneville, right, after Quenneville was introduced Monday as the Florida Panthers new head coach at a news conference in Sunrise, Florida.

    Florida Panthers NHL hockey team General Manager Dale Tallon, left, and Joel Quenneville, right, after Quenneville was introduced Monday as the Florida Panthers new head coach at a news conference in Sunrise, Florida. Associated Press

Updated 4/13/2019 12:00 PM

While many in his front office were arguing against him, and the majority wanted Phil Kessel, GM Dale Tallon insisted the Blackhawks draft Jonathan Toews in 2006.

If for no other reason, Tallon should be remembered fondly in Chicago. Those three Stanley Cups would never have happened without Toews, who was taken at No. 3.


But Tallon, among a percentage of the delusional, has taken on a mythic reputation that rivals Mike Ditka in Chicago sports history.

Tallon did many good things, including the brilliant trade for Patrick Sharp, and drafting Niklas Hjalmarsson in the fourth round (2005), but his record was far from perfect.

He had many high picks, the benefit of creating terrible teams, and though Patrick Kane was a no-brainer as the No. 1 pick (2007), Tallon also took Cam Barker at No. 3 overall (2004), Jack Skille at No. 7 (2005) and Kyle Beach at No. 11 (2008).

They were billed as the next Denis Potvin, Cam Neely and Al Secord.

Guys like Mike Smith, Marshall Johnston, Bill Lesuk and Mike Dumas found Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Dustin Byfuglien and others, but Tallon seemed to always get the credit from his media pals.

Tallon completely miscalculated the new NHL coming out of the 2004-05 lockout and signed a group of free agents -- for scores of millions -- that were ill-suited to a faster, more-skilled game.

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As a result and under pressure from Bill Wirtz because the team was dreadful, Tallon put the blame on Trent Yawney, firing the head coach after only 103 games.

To take the heat off he used Denis Savard, and in the process ruined two coaching careers.

If you've just had a meal, turn away from these next two grafs.

In his final game as head coach in November 2006, Yawney's forward lines consisted of Bryan Smolinski, Tuomo Ruutu and Carl Corazzini; Sharp, Tony Salmelainen and Radim Vrbata; Denis Arkhipov, Martin Lapointe and Michael Holmqvist; and Craig MacDonald, Jeff Hamilton and Karl Stewart.

On defense, he had Lasse Kukkonen, Jim Vandermeer and Jassen Cullimore, with youngsters Brent Seabrook, Duncan Keith and James Wisniewski. His goaltender was Brian Boucher.


Who was responsible for that fine squad?

Yawney, who had given 15 years to the team -- developing the likes of Keith and Seabrook during his five years coaching in Norfolk -- was sent packing.

He continues to be one of the premiere defensive assistants in the game, but has never had another shot at a head coaching position. The stink -- of those 103 games -- still follows him.

Under Tallon in Florida, Peter DeBoer got 82 games as coach, Kevin Dineen 146 games, Peter Horachek 66 games and Bob Boughner was recently fired after two seasons.

It's convenient that it's always the coach's fault.

Joel Quenneville is now the seventh coach in nine years in Florida, and the Panthers have made the playoffs once in last seven years.

None of it sticks to Tallon, who's a good guy and popular with the press, which doesn't hurt his staying power.

Before he left Chicago, after the infamous bungling of qualifying offers, Tallon also left the Hawks with a salary cap disaster, the team losing half a roster in the summer of 2010.

Spending ownership's money was never a problem, though spending wisely was on several occasions in Chicago.

Easily forgotten is that he left the broadcast booth in 1998 to work in the Hawks' front office, cozying up to Peter Wirtz, and when Tallon didn't like working for GM Mike Smith, the Hawks fired Billy Gardner so Tallon could return to the booth.

Just one little problem there. Gardner had moved his family to Chicago from Carolina -- where he had a job for life -- to work for the Hawks' broadcast team.

No matter. Tallon wanted back in and Wirtz cut loose Gardner. No one ever apologized to Gardner for that, but not long after Smith was gone, Tallon was back in the front office as GM.

He's a great scout. That's undeniable. But Tallon's never been great at managing people or dollars, and he gets too close to his players.

He's frequently in the locker room when things are good and disappears when things are bad, which is the opposite of how a GM should operate.

He meddles in coaching and lineup decisions, though that seems unlikely with a future Hall of Famer in Quenneville, who likes having a say in personnel.

That should be interesting.

The good news for both is Tallon has found Florida some really nice pieces. You might think of the Panthers like the Hawks, circa 2008.

But Tallon has been there since 2010 -- minus a year when ownership kicked him upstairs -- and it shouldn't take a decade to become a threat in this league, especially when you've had five Top 10 picks, including a No. 1, a No. 2 and a pair of No. 3s.

Knowing his fondness for old friends -- it was Scotty Bowman, by the way, who brought Quenneville to Chicago -- perhaps Tallon will find a way to take on some contracts from the Hawks, much like he did Brian Campbell in 2011.

The Panthers could use some battle-tested veterans, so that could work out nicely for both teams, and you know Quenneville wouldn't mind being reunited with a player or two he relied on heavily in the past.

In the meantime, Quenneville is secure with a five-year deal and $30 million.

It's a good bet he'll be given more than 103 games to get the job done.

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