When Dale Tallon came to South Florida last year, he promised that things were going to change. Not only did Tallon want to make the Panthers a playoff team, he wanted to make them a Stanley Cup Champion team! He introduced us to his blueprint for success. A blueprint. Ah, that means we’re building…or re-building…again. Building takes time. Well, it didn’t take much time after the end of the regular season before Tallon made his first big move in “relieving” head Coach Pete DeBoer of his responsibilities (I guess that’s the kinder, gentler version of “you’re fired!” – Donald Trump, take note).
That brings us to today and only two days post-regular season…locker clean out day. While other teams are gearing up for the playoffs and race for the Stanley Cup, Panthers players are cleaning out their lockers. Some, possibly wondering if they will have the same locker next year…or even a locker at all! Yes, these are uncertain times that we live in.
But let’s look at the bright side. The Panthers don’t have the headache of having to be distracted by things such as…the playoffs. Instead, we can focus our full attention at the task at hand…re-building for next year. So, on locker clean out day, Tallon stepped up to speak to the press, along with several Panthers players. While watching some of the player exit meetings with the media, what struck me the most was just how uncertain some of the players were on their status. Like any Panthers fan, I can’t help but to wonder how the firing of DeBoer affects what could happen with veteran goal-tender, Tomas Vokoun. When asked about his thoughts on returning just after his meeting with Tallon, even Vokoun seemed hesitant to say whether there was a 50-50 chance of him returning. Admittedly, he responded that he didn’t use the best negotiating skills by letting the team know how much he likes South Florida. However, Tallon seems to remain a man of mystery…not revealing what his next move will be. He keeps us in suspense, dodging questions and talking about a need of change of voice, personality and style. Who is he looking for? “We’re probably looking for someone more like me,” said Tallon. While we wait to see what he has planned for the future of the Panthers, Tallon says that he’s looking for “the right guy for the job,” and that he plans on filling that vacancy before the June draft.
So, while other teams get excited about the playoffs, Panthers fans get excited about the future and Tallon’s plans. What did he have to say on the subject? “I’m excited every day. Who would not want to be here in this position…how could you not be excited…we have a great practice facility, great rink, great weather…this has got to be a destination…we want to win a Stanley Cup.” Stanley Cup?! In South Florida? How can I not be excited about that? Until we see how the blueprint unfolds, I plan on enjoying the playoffs and getting excited about how the Panthers utilize their top draft picks, trades, and salary cap. Most importantly, I hope that Tallon can deliver on what he promised and what South Florida and Panthers fans need.