Florida Panthers Moving Forward: Introduction

Most of our energy this year has been (rightfully) spent picking apart what spoiled the Florida Panthers’ season. Now that playoffs are all but statistically (no pun intended) impossible the opportunity arises to justify how to clear the deck, and have a do-over on year one of the Stanley Cup Window™ .

Why the Panthers are where they are we have discussed ad nauseam. It’s complicated. Chances are that if you are reading this, you’ve already heard the spiel. If you need a refresher, here’s pretty much everything:

Like all professional teams, the Panthers have set goals:

  1. Be a Cap team
  2. Win first Playoff Series in 20 years (universal knowledge, do I need a source here?)
  3. Win a Cup by summer of 2019

Unfortunately another season has gone by and the organization is no closer to those three goals. They are 28th in Salary Cap hit and are currently at the back of the line for the playoff bubble. They were 29th in Salary Cap hit the majority of the year until edging New Jersey by less than $100k with the Vanek addition.

Last season’s first round departure put into motion the firing of dozens of employees and the opening of the three year Stanley Cup Window™. This year’s slow, public death–which already saw one emotional outburst firing from ownership–may only bring more slashing and chest beating.

So, what should happen? How can ownership do an “About-face” and re-point the franchise back in the right direction?

The Voice

Heading into the 2015-2016 season it was hardly debatable. The “Voice” of the Florida Panthers was Dale Tallon. There was a consistency and expectation of consistency that Tallon would be the final say and public voice of Hockey Operations in Sunrise. Since then it has been Tom Rowe, Vinny Viola, Doug Cifu, Eric Joyce, Steve Werier, or even Matt Caldwell. It’s been Dale Tallon sprinkled in between the others when convenience serves. The simple answer is, no one knows who calls and makes the shots.

It was clear this season that a unified voice and identity was missing. There was no common fabric.

Heading into this offseason, the voice, the person accountable for the success of the organization needs to be identified, and needs to sling a majority of the power. When the big trade, or big draft pick, or big extension comes down to a “yes” or “no”, who is the one to make the ultimate call?

Ownership is persistent in hiring a plethora of voices, establishing a similar structure to Toronto’s President-down management style. The plan fell through right from the beginning. Tallon, the President, was not at the head of the table–the leader of the many voices. Ownership was. Or Rowe was. Or the pair of “AGMs” were. Ownership is not as outwardly involved in Toronto as it is in Florida (which is a hell of a statement to make).

So step one, make Dale Tallon’s ‘firing up’ a real promotion. Actual President of Hockey Everything, like seriously.

Step two: Relieve Tom Rowe of Coaching and General Manager duties and let him find a new opportunity.

He is a symptom of the disease and was set up to fail. Not sure what could really save him at this point; it is inevitable. By taking these two steps, ownership is divesting themselves from hockey operations problem solving and committing to opening roles for new, outside people.

Ok…that’s pretty well accepted, yeah? Not sure I’ll see much push back here. But with Rowe’s departure there is an immediate need for steps three and four– hiring the new General Manager and Head Coach.

Click here to read the next post, detailing the Panther’s General Manager search.

 

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