The 2015-16 campaign was the best in Panthers history, but the powers that be in Florida don’t appear satisfied with simply making the post-season. After a stellar regular season that saw the Panthers win the Atlantic Division, the front office will reportedly have a new look in 2016-17.
Saturday evening, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported that the Panthers could be moving GM Dale Tallon up the ladder to president of hockey operations, sliding Tom Rowe from associate GM to GM and putting Eric Joyce into the assistant GM role. Friedman’s report was backed up by the Sun Sentinel’s Harvey Fialkov and Miami Herald’s George Richards, who both added that Steve Werier, the Panthers’ vice president of business and legal affairs, will also get a bump up to serve as assistant GM alongside Joyce.
The shift in the front office may be surprising given Florida had the first 100-point season in franchise history, but it appears to be a move that came because the Panthers are looking “to incorporate more mathematical analysis when it comes to making roster decisions,” according to Richards. Maybe the most surprising thing about the changes, though, are that they come so soon after Tallon signed a long-term extension that will reportedly keep him a part of the Panthers’ organization until the end of the 2018-19 season.
However, Florida may have put the wheels in motion for this transition at the time Tallon’s extension was announced this past January. On the same day the new deal with Tallon was announced, the Panthers also brought Rowe up from the AHL, where he had been coaching the Portland Pirates, to come on as Tallon’s associate.
“Bringing Tom to Florida to complement Dale will solidify our exciting upwards trajectory as a franchise,” Panthers executive chairman Peter Luukko said in January. “As everyone around the league knows, the nature and responsibilities of an NHL front office are ever-expanding. With their combined knowledge of the game and business of hockey, Dale and Tom will be able to ensure the future of the Panthers is bright.”
And while those who have followed Tallon’s career may get the feeling that this is eerily reminiscent of the Chicago Blackhawks’ front office shakeup prior to the 2009-10 season that saw Tallon replaced as GM by Stan Bowman, that doesn’t appear to be the case at all. According to Richards, Tallon will still be an important voice in the direction of the team, but the shuffle also puts Rowe, Joyce and Werier in a position to help Tallon guide this team forward. In his past six seasons as GM, Tallon has reshaped a struggling organization into a club that boasts one of the more promising groups of young talent.
The Panthers haven’t made the changes official, but Richards reported the official word will likely come once Tallon returns from his current scouting trip to the World Championship in Russia.