John McDonough is generally getting crucified for firing Dale Tallon as his general manager and kicking him upstairs. Since I’m on record saying that I would fire Tallon in the wake of the qualifying offers fiasco, I feel obligated to defend the Hawk’s president.
I don’t think it is hard to imagine the situation McDonough walked into when he accepted the job of running the Hawks in the wake of the death of Bill Wirtz. McDonough is a marketing guy so he wasn’t too worried about financial disaster he inherited. He knew he was in a great market and so he was confident in his ability to put fans in the seats.
McDonough doesn’t know anything about hockey but he is told that the team has good young players and obviously his general manager deserves some credit for that. However, he doesn’t think Tallon is particularly smart and reviewing his resume, McDonough is worried about his qualifications for the job.
(I’m substituting my views in this regard obviously. I would never have hired Dale Tallon. Even if we accept that Tallon can evaluate talent – an arguable premise – the GM is a manager of a complex multi-million dollar operation. Tallon lacks both the education and experience for that type of role. That he was even hired speaks volumes about the state of the organization before Bill Wirtz died.)
Okay, so McDonough is worried about Tallon but he has no real reason to fire him. Instead he hires Scotty Bowman as a senior advisor. Bowman is not impressed with Tallon either. (Again this is an assumption, but if Bowman liked Tallon he would still be in the job.)
The good news going forward was that the excellent young team grew into an excellent team period. The bad news was that they did this despite the fact that Tallon did little to demonstrate competence. Indeed he made several mistakes – Savard, Campbell, Huet – even before the qualifying offer fiasco. The salary cap has been mismanaged badly, so badly that there will not be enough money to sign three stars – Kane, Toews, and Keith – whose contracts expire this year. Finally, it doesn’t really matter who is to blame for not getting the qualifying offers out on time. The underling who goofed was not instructed properly, or did not understand the importance of the offers, or was not competent. That goes directly to the concern about Tallon – Is he capable of running a large and complex organization?
McDonough decided that the answer was “No” and so he pulled the trigger despite the fact that he knew he would get blasted for it.
I think he was both right and courageous. If I was a fan of the Hawks I’d figure the organization was in good hands. Finally.