Bob McKenzie laid down a mic-dropping rant on the Florida Panthers’ saga on Leafs Lunch on Thursday. Full transcription below.
We probably don’t have enough time to get into this in detail, but I will anyways. All due respect to Harvey (Fialkov) or not, Harvey’s full of crap. It’s as simple as that. Now, is it a confusing situation? Yeah, it’s confusing. Here is the thing. Technically, nothing has changed in Florida. Everyone has got the same title. They’re going out of their way now to say nothing has happened. I will tell you what happened. After the game the other night where they lost, and lost badly, Roberto Luongo smashed his stick off the boards and threw a tantrum as he went off the ice, and Tom Rowe threw a tantrum on the bench. That put them to 2-3-3 – seven points out of a possible sixteen since they fired head coach Gerard Gallant. We do know the owner, Vinny Viola, met with Dale Tallon the next morning and immediately following that there was certainly word out in the NHL community that, whatever role Dale had before, there may have been some added responsibility.
You can argue about the shades of grey, and talk about how they operate – and they do operate in a unique fashion – but because Dale Tallon… I mean, he was originally the General Manager. Then, a year ago – last January – they promoted him to President of Hockey Operations. Then, at the end of the season, they took away the GM’s title and gave it to Tom Rowe. So, you can call it a promotion, and Florida did call it that, but it wasn’t a promotion and everybody in hockey knows it wasn’t a promotion. Dale didn’t lose his voice entirely, but he lost his status as the voice for making hockey decisions. I know our Darren Dreger reported yesterday morning that Dale probably had a wider base of power or influence yesterday than he did the day before. That’s consistent with what I’m hearing throughout the NHL. Some GMs were told this morning that, for now anyway, Dale is in the driver’s seat.
Now, I would go as far as to say that there’s only one guy in Florida in the driver’s seat, and that’s owner Vinny Viola. He just spends his power and influence as he sees fit, depending on the circumstance. There are other owners, there’s a team president, there’s assistant General Managers, there’s Dale, there’s Tom Rowe – who was the GM and still holds the title, although now he’s an interim head coach. So it’s like a stew. On any given day, somebody seems to maybe be providing more of the spice or the seasoning than any other day.
The other big part of this is analytics. It really bothers me that the pro-analytics crowd wants to view anything that is perceived as Dale Tallon getting more voice as it’s going to be black and white and they’re suddenly going in a different direction. They’re not going in a different direction with analytics. It bothers me that the anti-analytics crowd would seize on any little thing and say that Dale Tallon coming back is a sign that the Florida Panthers have seen the light and are no longer going down the analytics [path]. That’s all garbage, on both sides of the fence. At the end of the day, right now, I’m prepared to say based on everything I know, that at this moment in time – and for the foreseeable future, but at the behest and whim of the owner Vinny Viola – Dale Tallon probably has a louder voice now than he did before. Now, how long that lasts? I couldn’t begin to tell you.
As far as what Darren Dreger reported yesterday, it was entirely accurate. After we report things, sometimes things change. But we don’t make stuff up. Pierre Lebrun doesn’t. Darren Dreger doesn’t. I don’t. Elliotte Friedman at Hockey Night in Canada doesn’t. It’s as simple as that.
I know everybody loves to weigh in on what they think they know and what have you, but I can tell you this – Dale is talking to GMs today in a manner in which he hasn’t been speaking to them on the same level as in the past weeks and months. How long that lasts? Your guess is as good as mine.
I think it’s a polarizing situation simply because it does involve analytics. So the Florida Panthers get swept up. I’ll say this right up front – I’m not pro-analytics. I’m not anti-analytics. I allow Vinny Viola and everybody connected with the Florida Panthers to do business as they see fit. Did I like that Gerard Gallant got fired? No. Did I like the way he got fired? No. Do I allow that an owner and a management team, if they don’t believe the coach is on the same page philosophically as them, to have the right to fire a coach? Of course they do. They should be given every opportunity to see where they go with that. But the early returns are not good.
You can talk about analytics all you want, but the numbers that matter to Vinny Viola, by the time the season’s over, is whether they’re in the playoffs or not. That’s a big number. They expect to be in the playoffs, and they thought they’d be a playoff team, and they don’t want this to get away from them in this 2-3-3 stretch under Tom Rowe as the interim head coach. As I say, I don’t have any problem with them going about their business as they see fit. They’ll get judged on how they do business. In the short term, it hasn’t materialized. That’s not to say that, by the time the season is over, they won’t be able to reel it back in and be a playoff team.
Just because Dale might have more influence and say in the operation than he did a day, a week, a month, six months ago doesn’t mean that suddenly everything that Steve Werier and Eric Joyce believe in is going out the window. I don’t know why anybody would presume that to be the case, unless you’re so wrapped up in the pro-analytics, anti-analytics debate that you need verification and justification for the way you feel. And that’s why so many people on Twitter who know nothing about what’s going on with the Florida Panthers are weighing in like they know something. And hey, in fairness, people from the Florida Panthers are saying nothing’s changed. And that’s fine, but you know what? They said nothing changed when Dale Tallon got promoted, and it did change. Let’s not kid anybody.