The timing is curious.
The Florida Panthers, who are only coming off the best regular season in franchise history, officially gave their front office a major shakeup Monday. And it was months in the working.
Men were promoted from within, responsibilities and titles were shuffled, and a few lost their jobs.
“We’ve all worked well together for a short period of time, and I don’t think there’s any reason to think we won’t work well together long term.” former GM and now president of hockey operations Dale Tallon told the Miami Herald Sunday. “It’s worked so far. I don’t see any bad things here. It’s good to have different voices, opinions and points of view. A lot of teams are doing it this way.”
So how exactly are the Panthers doing it? And who are the key players making the decisions as one of the NHL’s most exciting young teams looks to improve in the future?
Let’s take a look at the franchise’s new-look front office from the top down:
Vincent Viola, principal owner, chairman and governor
The Brooklyn-born billionaire businessman and founder of Virtu Financial took over the club in September 2013.
“This is a great day for the organization as it ensures continuity within the hockey operations department,” Viola said of Monday’s changes. “I have the utmost confidence in Dale’s vision and leadership and this group’s ability to build on this year’s playoff appearance and make the Panthers a Stanley Cup contender for years to come.”
Doug Cifu, co-owner, vice chairman and alternate governor:
A native of Syosset, N.Y., Cifu purchased the Panthers with Viola and made some minor headlines this season when he spoke about the Panthers’ love for Andrew Ladd and, when asked in a radio interview, said he would prefer to draw the New York Islanders in the post-season. The Isles defeated the Panthers in six games in Round 1.
Peter Luukko, executive chairman:
Prior to assuming his post in February 2015, Luukko served as president and COO of Comcast-Spectacor for more than 25 years, overseeing the Philadelphia Flyers. The Panthers have increased both ticket and corporate partnership revenue under his watch.
“What we’re really doing is formalizing the structure within our organization,” Luukko told the Herald. “This is our team and as our operation evolves, we’re going to need that depth. It’s really a collaborative effort… Everything we do is together. When we make a decision to acquire a player or make a trade, it’s a group discussion. We make every move collaboratively.”
Dale Tallon, president of hockey operations:
After assembling the building blocks for a championship core in Chicago, Tallon became the Panthers general manager in 2010. He is the main architect of a young core that won a franchise-best 47 games this season and claimed the Atlantic Division title.
Tallon was awarded a three-year contract extension on Jan. 1, and on May 16 was promoted to president of hockey ops. He will oversee all things hockey, including scouting, player acquisition and development.
Luukko told Hockey Central at Noon that Tallon will still have final say on all trades after those moves are discussed as a group.
“It’s a pretty nice deal,” Tallon told the Herald. “This just frees me up to do more of what I’m in tune with: scouting, mentoring and developing. I’m going to spend more time on that. I’ve been doing contracts and other day-to-day operations for a long time. It kind of wears you out.”
Said Luukko: “Dale is our leader; he’s at the top. He has been a first-class GM for many years… I’ve known Dale for more than 25 years and have worked well with him. This whole group works well together.”
So what would Luukko say to those who see the shakeup as a first step in pushing Tallon out?
“That just isn’t true. This is us reacting and building depth to win a Stanley Cup,” Luukko told HC @ Noon. “You need all hands on deck.”
Tom Rowe, general manager:
The former NHL winger was serving as the head coach of Florida’s AHL affiliate when he was promoted to the big club’s front office in 2013. Rowe now graduates from associate general manager to become the Panthers’ 10th GM in 23 years. The 59-year-old Massachusetts native will lead the office’s day-to-day operations.
“In our setup, it’s not a decision-making position,” Rowe told the Herald. “Dale is the president of hockey ops and Peter Luukko is above all of us.”
Rowe will focus on contracts, scouting and negotiations.
“Basically I’m working under [Tallon], assisting him and helping him execute what he’s laid out as our long-term plan for us and his vision. Dale brought me into this organization, and I’m loyal to him. I appreciate the opportunity he’s given me.”
Tom Rowe was fired by Lokomotiv, #FlaPanthers needed an AHL coach soon afterward. Now he’s GM of team. “Sometimes fate steps in,” Talon said
— George Richards (@GeorgeRichards) May 16, 2016
Eric Joyce, assistant general manager:
Like Rowe, Joyce and new assistant GM Steve Werier (see below) were all brought in under the Viola-Cifu regime. Joyce previously had served as vice president, assistant to the GM and GM of the Panthers AHL affiliate, Portland Pirates. He will also continue to serve as GM of the Panthers AHL affiliate.
Steve Werier, assistant general manager
Werier, a corporate lawyer, had served as the Panthers’ vice president of legal and business affairs. In addition to his new title, he will continue on as VP of legal affairs. He’s the Cats’ salary cap point man.
Casualties: As a result of the shakeup, director of hockey operations Mike Dixon, assistant GM Mike Santos, and assistant coach John Madden were all fired.
Tom Rowe: John Madden wants to be a head coach, wanted to pursue other opportunities. #FlaPanthers
— George Richards (@GeorgeRichards) May 16, 2016