Ex-Hawks GM Tallon gets extension with Panthers


Ex-Hawks GM Tallon gets extension with Panthers

SUNRISE, Fla. Dale Tallon assembled a team that got the Florida Panthers back into the playoffs. He has bigger plans now, and the Panthers are making sure their general manager has the chance to see them through.

Tallon and the Panthers announced Wednesday that they have agreed on a multiyear contract extension. Specific terms were not disclosed.

"I think it was very, very important for us to give the contract extension to Dale for one very, very crucial reason," Panthers general partner Cliff Viner said. "And that is I think it's important for us to show our confidence in Dale, so that he can be confident and he can have the certainty that he can execute his plan and our plan for long-term success."

Tallon joined the Panthers in May 2010. He led a turnaround that included the snapping of a 12-year playoff drought and the club's first Southeast Division title this season.

Florida lost a first-round series to eventual Eastern Conference champion New Jersey, losing Game 7 to the Devils at home in double overtime.

"We had a good year. We're very positive going into the offseason," Tallon said. "But we're not satisfied. If you get into the playoffs, anything can happen."

Tallon is a finalist for the NHL's Executive of the Year award, with the winner set to be announced later this month.

His fingerprints are all over multiple aspects of the franchise, with him having reshaped the club's hockey operations department and much of the team's roster. The Panthers finished 38-26-18 this season, the 94 points being their most since finishing with 98 in 1999-2000 - which, until this season, was their most recent playoff year.

He hired Kevin Dineen to coach the team a year ago, brought Michael Santos in as an assistant general manager, signed assistant coaches Gord Murphy and Craig Ramsay and also hired director of player development Brian Skrudland.

"I think we have a great core here and we have a great nucleus of character people who really care," Tallon said. "And they weren't excited about losing a Game 7, believe me. Our exit meetings were very fruitful, but there was a lot of disappointment in that locker room. Guys weren't satisfied about losing a Game 7 in double overtime."

Tallon said the team has already offered restricted free agent forward Kris Versteeg and free agent goaltender Scott Clemmensen contracts for next season. Another free agent who will be getting an offer this week is defenseman Jason Garrison, and Tallon is hopeful all those deals will eventually get done.

Another deal that was a no-brainer, he said, was his own. Tallon said he had no designs on leaving Florida anytime soon.

"There was never any doubt," Tallon said. "Regardless of this, I was going to give my heart and soul to this franchise. Now it just gives us security and the ability to go forward ... and work together toward the common goal of winning the Stanley Cup."

Kyle Hendricks outduels Clayton Kershaw and delivers legendary performance that puts Cubs in World Series

Kyle Hendricks outduels Clayton Kershaw and delivers legendary performance that puts Cubs in World Series

John Hendricks sent a text message to his son at 11:24 a.m. on Saturday: “Good luck tonight!! Remember, great mechanics and preparation will prevail. Just let it go!!” It ended with three emoji: a smiley face with sunglasses, the thumbs-up sign and a flexed biceps.

The Cubs have bonded fathers and sons for generations, and Hendricks immediately understood what it meant for his boy when the Cubs traded Ryan Dempster to the Texas Rangers minutes before the deadline on July 31, 2012, telling Kyle: “You win in this city, you will be a legend. There is no doubt about it. This is the greatest sports town in the United States.”

This is the intoxicating lure of the Cubs. It didn’t matter that Kyle had been an eighth-round pick out of Dartmouth College, and hadn’t yet finished his first full season in professional baseball, and would be joining an organization enduring a 101-loss season, the third of five straight fifth-place finishes.

Kyle’s low-key personality will never get him confused with an ’85 Bear, but he delivered a legendary performance in Game 6, outpitching Clayton Kershaw at the end of this National League Championship Series and leading the Cubs to the World Series for the first time in 71 years.

Five outs away from the pennant, a raucous crowd of 42,386 at Wrigley Field actually booed star manager Joe Maddon when he walked out to the mound to take the ball from Kyle and bring in closer Aroldis Chapman. Kyle, the silent assassin, did briefly raise his hand to acknowledge the standing ovation before descending the dugout steps. 

After a 5-0 win, Kyle stood in roughly the same spot with Nike goggles on his head and finally looked a little rattled, his body shivering and teeth chattering in the cold, his Cubs gear soaked from the champagne-and-beer celebration.

“It’s always been an uphill climb for me, honestly,” Kyle said. “But that really has nothing to do with getting guys out. My focus from Day 1 – even when I was young, high school, college, all the way up until now – all it’s been is trying to make good pitches. 

“And as we moved up, you just saw that good pitches get good hitters out.” 

At a time when the game is obsessed with velocity and showing off for the radar gun, Kyle knows how to pitch, putting the ball where he wants when he wants, avoiding the hot zones that lead to trouble, mixing his changeups, fastballs and curveball in an unpredictable way that takes advantage of the team’s intricate scouting system and keeps hitters completely off-balance.

“Kyle didn’t even give them any air or any hope,” general manager Jed Hoyer said.

Amid the celebration, scouting/player-development chief Jason McLeod spotted Kyle’s dad and yelled at John: “You f------ called it!” John – who once worked in the Angels ticket office and as a golf pro in Southern California – had moved to Chicago two years ago to work for his good friend’s limo company and watch his son pitch at Wrigley Field. John had told McLeod that Kyle would one day help the Cubs win a championship.

“That was one of the best pitching performances I’ve ever seen,” McLeod said. “Ever.”

[SHOP: Buy a "Try Not to Suck" shirt with proceeds benefiting Joe Maddon's Respect 90 Foundation & other Cubs Charities] 

The media framed Kyle as The Other Pitcher, even though he won the ERA title this season, with all the pregame buzz surrounding Kershaw, the three-time Cy Young Award winner and 2014 NL MVP. Except Kershaw gave up five runs and got knocked out after five innings, while Kyle only gave up two singles to the 23 batters he faced, finishing with six strikeouts against zero walks and looking like he had even more left in the tank at 88 pitches.

“It was incredible,” Ben Zobrist said. “That was the easiest postseason game we’ve had yet and it was the clincher to go to the World Series. 

“He’s just so good, so mature for his age. He just has a knack to put the ball where he needs to. He’s smart and he’s clutch. He deserves to win the Cy Young this year.”

Where Kershaw’s presence loomed over the entire playoffs, Kyle has always been underestimated, coming into this season as a fourth or fifth starter with something to prove, and even he didn’t see all this coming. But big-game pitchers can come in all shapes and sizes and don’t have to throw 97 mph. 

“He wants the ball,” John said. “Every big game – I don’t care if it was Little League or wherever – he wants the ball. Plain and simple, (he’ll) get the job done.”

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