Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014

Defending McDonough

12

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.

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Comments

12 Responses to “Defending McDonough”
  1. sv says:

    You’re probably right Tom. I think that a lot of the bad feelings around the firing are based on an emotional reading of events: Tallon is the good, hockey guy who built the team let go by the new marketing guy.

  2. James Mirtle says:

    They should have just made this move prior to the draft and free agency. What sense is there in letting Tallon do the lifting in that regard and then hand the team over when the roster’s already set for next season?

  3. sv says:

    I guess they can hang any failures on him.

  4. Tom says:

    They should have just made this move prior to the draft and free agency. What sense is there in letting Tallon do the lifting in that regard and then hand the team over when the roster’s already set for next season?

    There is no sense in it. They did not plan to fire the guy who took his team to the semifinals after a wildly successful season. McDonough is a smart guy. He knew he was going to take his lumps on this. He didn’t want to do it. Tallon is a nice guy and a connection to the distant past.

    But the QO fiasco was the culminating incident, the last straw. An inexcusable error that ripped away the very last of McDonough’s confidence in Tallon’s ability to professionally manage the organization. The timing is bad, but McDonough didn’t choose the timing.

  5. rajeev says:

    The timing is bad, but McDonough didn’t choose the timing.

    That strikes me as much more opportunistic than courageous. Courage would have pulling the plug before the draft and certainly before july 1. Going to Bowman obviates any continuity concerns re the prep work done for either of those events. Thinking Tallon is dumb and unqualified is one thing, of course he is. But handling the whole thing the way McD did looks to me like bush league and the opposite of courageous.

    And speaking of hockey reporters not yet having resorted to just making up sources, what should we make of Kevin Allen’s allegation that McD was involved in the QO mess? Either his source is lying or has no idea what’s going on, both plausible. But Tallon’s quote that they did it a little different this year is a bit telling.

  6. Tom says:

    That strikes me as much more opportunistic than courageous. Courage would have pulling the plug before the draft and certainly before july 1.

    But the mistake – the QO mistake – was not yet made. I think if he thought about it, McDonough wishes he had done it when Savard was fired.

    I also wonder whether Dudley’s decision to quit had something to do with it.

  7. Cameron says:

    As for the underling who was responsible for getting the offers to the RFA’s…wouldn’t that be Bowman the younger (asst Gen Mgr Hockey Operations)?

  8. The Hawks will be fun to watch next season.
    They’ll play entertaining hockey. But…

    I wouldn’t be surprised if they took a small step back. Teams that get good in a hurry sometimes do. If Huet flops in goal it could be a major step back.

    Even if they’re playing well, there’ll be the looming salary cap crisis. At some point the new GM has to create cap space for Kane, Toews and Keith. Can he do it without messing up the team as is?

    If it goes wrong, McDonough likely takes the blame, fair or not.

  9. Dennis_Prouse says:

    Tom is right in that there have long been whispers that Tallon, while a nice guy, wasn’t exactly the brightest bulb on the Christmas tree. He was also closely affiliated with Bob Pulford, who no longer has any influence in the organization. Making Tallon the full time GM was clearly an “old boy network” hire, and that’s not how a guy like McDonough rolls. As soon as Bowman Sr. arrived on the scene, you had to know Tallon’s days were numbered.

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