If you’re keeping score during this off-season, so far the Chicago Blackhawks have:
- Completed their draft by selecting all centers and defenseman
- Re-signed every one of their restricted free agents
- Nearly had an embarrassing investigation by the Players’ Association due to a mailing flap that everyone in the front office is begging to take the blame on
- Held their Prospects Camp at one of the worst facilities in the state
- Reassigned their General Manager to an office job that he will probably never spend a day working at (more later on that)
Oh yeah, they also signed the best free agent on the market to a very cap friendly deal and locked up two third/fourth line centers. Anyone who said this off-season would be fairly boring is obviously an idiot.
The biggest news in all of that, though, is the replacement of Dale Tallon on Tuesday. No, it wasn’t surprising. If you’ve followed the team for more than a couple weeks, the tension between John McDonough and Tallon was as obvious as the Indian Head at center ice of the United Center.
Before we dive into this head-first, let’s clear up a couple of myths that are permeating from this on-going development.
- Dale Tallon being re-assigned was the final extermination of the old regime. Any guesses on who has been with the Blackhawks longer than Tallon? That’s right, your new general manager Stan Bowman. Bowman has held a position with the Hawks since 2001. I’m not very smart, but I’m pretty sure that Bill Wirtz and Bob Pulford were still calling the shots back then. So while some people (see Columnist who shall remain nameless) try to tell you this was the final removal of the old guard, that’s pretty much a bunch of b.s.
- This move will be successful because the Hawks replaced Denis Savard with Joel Quenneville and that turned out to be peaches. The only thing similar about these two moves is how predictable they actually were. Other than that, this is two completely opposite front office shuffles. In replacing Savard with Quenneville, the Hawks got an experienced coach who knew exactly what he was stepping into. Coach Q wasn’t going to need too much time to adjust. This was his third head coaching position and he brought over 10 years of experience. This will be Stan Bowman’s first shot in the big chair. Essentially, this move is more like firing Joel Quenneville and hiring Denis Savard to take his place. Not the most reassuring feeling in the world.
Now that we cleared that up, let’s get down to the nitty gritty.
First of all, people who are much more business savvy than yours truly told me that Dale Tallon’s contract extension is nothing more than a buyout. If that’s the case, he won’t be around for very long. Essentially he gets to collect checks for the next three years without contributing a single ounce of useful information.
Why fire him now?
Well it appears, at least according to John McDonough, that the ‘Qualifying Offers Fiasco’ played a pretty big role in this. For whatever reason, everyone from McD to Tallon to Stan Bowman has confessed it was their sin, yet only Tallon had to pay for it with his job.
This was much more than that, though. The Pres and GM have butted heads for quite some time now. This may have just brought everything to a collison course. The change was going to be made; this may have just accelerated it.
All that being said, this could have been planned for awhile. The Hawks didn’t want to give off the impression around the league that they were a front office in turmoil. They let Tallon draft players trusting his eye for talent; they let Tallon do his thing in the recruiting process trusting his sales skills; then when all that was left was to fix the salary cap, they brought in their supposed ace in the hole, Stan Bowman.
Is this the right move?
I must admit, this is probably the first time since Rocky Wirtz took over that I’m very uneasy about what the future holds. John McDonough came off as very smug and unlikeable during the press conference. Stan Bowman sounded like he was going to break out into a full-on Milton from ‘Office Space’ impression.
“I was told I could listen to the radio at a reasonable volume.”
“Have you seen my red stapler?”
Let’s just hope his tenure doesn’t end with him burning the United Center down.
Back to the question, though, it all depends on the reasoning for the move.
If the front office brass made this move because they believe they have all the pieces in place, thanks to Tallon’s superb scouting and recruiting abilities, and only need a ‘cap expert’ to get them back in shape, then this move is justifiable. For now, that’s what I’ll believe they made this move for.
Stan Bowman did score some extra points in my book today. When asked about the potential headache going into next off-season, Bowman answered the same way I have been since the Hossa signing. That is, basically, everything will look a whole lot different in a year because of trades, releases, buyouts, etc. How can anybody say with any certainty what everything is going to look like then?
However, if they made this move because of old fashioned nepotism, then maybe some things will never change.