Panthers owner says nothing has changed in Dale Tallon’s role

The Florida Panthers have struggled and now face a shakeup as reports have surfaced that Dale Tallon will be taking over the decision-making.

Despite a mixed set of messages coming out of south Florida, other NHL GMs are operating under the assumption Dale Tallon is once again the Panthers’ essential decision-maker.

Tallon and owner Vinny Viola met Wednesday, the morning after an ugly 5-1 loss in Minnesota that dropped Florida to 2-6 since Gerard Gallant was fired. Hours later, there was a report Tallon resumed control of the franchise’s day-to-day operations.

A few sources backed the information, indicating they were under the impression Tallon received increased responsibility. That included both agents and executives from other NHL teams. (Tallon himself could not be reached for comment.) However, owner Vinny Viola, reached Wednesday night, indicated nothing has changed.

“As far as I am concerned, Dale has always had final say over hockey decisions,” Viola said by telephone. “What we had done is bifurcate Dale from some things he didn’t need to worry about anymore [negotiating contracts, for example]. But, in terms of player decisions, it is his call.”

Viola’s comments were met with skepticism, since, for example, Tallon would not have supported Gallant’s firing or Erik Gudbranson’s trade. I’ve heard the same rumours as everyone else — about Tallon being pushed aside and losing power in the hockey department.

It’s weird. What I don’t understand is why there would be any report of a change if nothing was different. A couple of other sources suspect it might be to calm down fans, “Canadian media” and possibly players who are not pleased with where this is going.

Another theory making the rounds is Tallon was asked to take a larger role, but ownership wanted that kept private.

Viola and the Panthers believe in a different leadership structure than we are used to. We expect: this person on top, then this person, then this one and so on. Vice-Chairman Doug Cifu described it as similar to his financial company, “a big box,” with Viola on top, then him, then everyone else kind of thrown in. Viola did allude to that in our conversation. The team’s two assistant general managers, Eric Joyce and Steve Werier, are on the road trip in Winnipeg.

So, I admit to being confused. The best advice I can give is let’s wait to see what happens when the Panthers start making moves. That will give us a clearer picture.

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