In a recent interview with Hockey Night In Canada’s Elliotte Friedman, Kelly Hrudey, and Gord Stellick, Florida Panthers General Manager Dale Tallon gave an update on HNIC Radio.
Fresh off a knee replacement 9 weeks ago, Tallon unleashed his laundry list of tasks on the hosts as he works through the lockout. “… We’re going to go see San Antonio play some games, and then get some junior games in. It’s a really good draft year, I love to do that- it’s my favourite thing to do.”
When asked about Jonathan Huberdeau, the Panthers’ 2011 first round draft pick currently playing with the Saint John Sea Dogs, Tallon commented on his conditioning. “I just want to see him getting stronger physically… so he can withstand playing against men. This kid’s the real deal. He’s not only a great kid on the ice, but off the ice too.”
Tallon’s stress over the prospects Florida has compiled as quality was mentioned many times; “We’ve got a lot of great, young prospects we’re excited about, He’s [Huberdeau] one of the cornerstones.”
Jonathan Huberdeau hasn’t been struggling. In 17 games this season with the Sea Dogs, he has recorded 10 G and 12 A for 22 points. He’s doing just fine where he is.
What about Keaton Ellerby? The Panthers’ first pick in the 2007 draft hasn’t fully reached his potential. Tallon agreed. “Now it’s time for him to grab the bull by the horns. He has the ability, he’s a great skater, he’s got a good shot. I challenged him at the exit meeting that he needs to get prepared this off-season and get stronger mentally and physically.” He added; “I’m counting on him.”
So what do the Panther’s need? It’s no secret they need more than one line to get hot and get them over the hump. “One thing we did lack last year was offense. If we get a healthy Upshall, we added Peter Mueller, and Huberdeau in our line-up that’s a little more skill for us.” Until this comes to fruition, Tallon is looking around the league for other position players; “I like big centreman, I like skill down the middle. That’s what we’re looking to add. We have that in our system, it’s just a matter of them getting mature and experience.”
Tallon’s message to the players last year was simple; come back stronger so we can continue building what we started last year. What exactly did he say to his players? This: “… they have to make the sacrifices and believe in themselves, I think we have a really strong core now. We need to come back and finish the job instead of just getting to the playoffs.”
How do the Panthers keep moving in the right direction? The NHL changes so often with trades, and most of the time streakiness in players. Every new season leaves the door open for a new team to emerge. Tallon is no stranger to this reality. “It’s never easy, this is a tough league. Teams got strong in July, Carolina made some additions, Washington did fine and the Rangers are going to be tough. It’s a tough conference, but I’m looking big picture, long term.”
It is evident Tallon trusts his own instincts and believes his philosophy will bring the Panthers ultimate success. “I know what we’ve got coming; I know where we’re going. When it’s going to happen I’m not sure, but I’m confident it’s going to happen.”
Player updates, insight, and bold statements from an NHL GM during a lockout. There are great expectations for this young team, hopefully fans get to see them on the ice this season.