SUNRISE, Fla. â€” Dale Tallon is back in his old job, and the Florida Panthers hope that’s the first step toward getting back to the playoffs.
The Panthers reinstated Tallon as general manager on Monday, removing Tom Rowe from both that position and his role as interim coach one day after a Florida season that began with Stanley Cup-contention expectations ended well short of a post-season berth.
Whenever a new coach gets hired, this much is clear: He’ll be answering to Tallon.
“We’re turning the page on a disappointing season,” Tallon said. “From today, we’re moving forward with a singular voice, under my leadership in hockey operations. We’re going to have one agenda and one agenda only and that is winning.”
It has been a muddled last 12 months for the Panthers, starting with Rowe’s promotion to general manager. Florida revamped its roster in the off-season, making decisions in large part based on data gleaned from analytics. And head coach Gerard Gallant â€” who was well-liked in the locker room and led Florida to its best regular season ever â€” was fired after 22 games and replaced by Rowe.
In announcing the moves, Panthers owner Vincent Viola said Tallon will have the final say on major matters.
“I am confident that we have the necessary talent throughout our organization to win the Stanley Cup,” Viola said.
Panthers President and CEO Matt Caldwell insisted that Rowe should not take all the blame for the lost season. Rowe is being retained as a special advisor to Tallon, though it’s unclear what that will specifically mean.
“Everything was done with the best intentions,” Caldwell said. “We want to win. We wanted to look at a lot of things that were out there, a lot of voices. But the thing we learned is having a singular voice … that reports to ownership is most important. We live and we learn. We still have a lot of great things going on with the company.”
Florida wants to have a new coach before the June draft. Tallon said the team has a list of young candidates including Geordie Kinnear, the coach of the Panthers’ AHL affiliate in Springfield, Massachusetts.
Other potential candidates are involved in the Stanley Cup playoffs, Tallon said.
Another decision looming for the Panthers revolves around Jaromir Jagr, who played in all 82 games for Florida this season and will be a free agent. Jagr will turn 46 next season and has suggested he wants to continue playing.
Tallon and Jagr are scheduled to meet for a season-ending exit meeting on Tuesday.
“I talked casually with his agent about a month ago,” Tallon said. “As we have in the past, we’ll sit down in the next few weeks and see where his desires are.”
Florida finished with the 22nd-best record in the 30-team NHL, missing the Eastern Conference playoffs by 14 points in a season doomed by injuries and struggles. The next coach will be the Panthers’ 15th in 23 years.
“I think we’ve got a quick-fix here ahead of us,” Tallon said.
Tim Reynolds, The Associated Press