NHLN Notebook: Tallon back in charge, Tortarella's new beginning, and L.A.'s goaltending issue

Christian Pagnani
December 19 2016 12:25PM

nhlnbook

Dale Tallon is back in charge of making roster decisions in Florida, as the Panthers have apparently shuffled their front office yet again. John Tortorella picked up his 500th career win, and based on the way his season has gone in Columbus, he could very quickly be shaking the negative narrative that has followed him around since his disastrous tenure in Vancouver.  

DALE TALLON BACK?:

Dale Tallon is back in charge of the Florida Panthers, well, maybe. There are conflicting reports about whether Tallon has been given more say after being shuffled upstairs to a President of Hockey Operations role. Tallon is rumoured to be back conversing with other general managers and more involved with the day-to-day decision making of the Florida Panthers. Although Florida beat writers and the Panthers owner himself have countered and said everything is the status quo, it's clear either Tallon has taken on some sort of bigger role or the Florida Panthers want it known that Tallon is still involved. 

The hockey world was visibly upset at the firing of Gerard Gallant and making Tallon more involved might help to soften that anger, and it's not hard to see why. Firing your coach 22 games into the season is hardly a surprise in the NHL, even if the team won the division the season prior, but the decision becomes more difficult if there was a philosophical difference at hand. A coach firing seems more like an offseason move and thats tough to do when you just had a winning season. It becomes even more curious when the former minor-league-coach-turned-general-manager, Tom Rowe, resumes the head coaching duties and then the old general manager, Dale Tallon, who was 'promoted' goes back to being more involved. Tallon is a familiar face to other hockey teams so this may be their attempt at damage control, but even this feels a little uncoordinated.

As much as the Panthers has become another venue for the hockey analytics vs. old school traditionalists debate to foster, it also makes them one of the most talked about teams in the NHL, which almost never happens. Every transaction will be dissected and debated as to which side the Panthers are currently leaning towards and whether that translates to success on the ice. The Panthers might have a clear plan, although it hasn't exactly shown through, so their future actions are a must-follow to see just where this ends up.

THE TORTS 500:

The Columbus Blue Jackets and John Tortorella are making it difficult to not include them in every NHLN Notebook. John Tortorella picked up his 500th win of his coaching career against his former team, the Vancouver Canucks, as well as his ninth win in a row for the Blue Jackets. 

Tortorella has gone from that crazy coach who tried to fight Bob Hartley during intermission to leading the Blue Jackets to a 20-5-4 record.  But it doesn't seem like mirage at all. Tortorella might be known for his overemphasis on shot blocking, but the Blue Jackets are close to the top 10 in shot attempt differential and look like a contender at this point. Torts might have been slightly underrated due to his questionable time in Vancouver, but that was likely a bad fit for both sides. Otherwise, Tortorrella coached teams have only missed the playoffs in five out of thirteen season in the National Hockey League. 

If Columbus keeps on the same pace, Tortorella might go from previously un-hireable to Jack Adams winner.

GOALIE PROBLEMS:

There are some goalie problems in Dallas and Los Angeles.  

Neither Antti Niemi nor Kari Lethonen are above the league average save percentage of 0.914, although Niemi just barely misses the cut (0.913). Lehtonen is well below at 0.894 and both goalies are signed beyond this season above 4.5 million dollars. Niemi's play has been rocky the past few seasons, while Lethonen isn't any better since his fall from a .919 goaltender years ago. Neither should be expected to improve going forward but when they're both saddled with such a high cap hit its hard to see how Dallas improves their goaltending. Any goalie coming in will likely come with money tied to him, and it'll be a hard sell to pan one of Lehtonen or Niemi the other way. No one wants a four-million dollar backup and retaining salary and including a young player might have to be included if Dallas wants to rid themselves of either goalie.

Los Angeles' problems are more injury related but their band-aid solution is hanging on. Peter Budaj has given them somewhat respectable goaltending after spending all of last season playing for their American Hockey League affiliate in Ontario. The Kings might have a chance if Budaj can scrape it together until Jonathan Quick returns, but counting on Budaj to maintain his play is especially risky when current backup Jeff Zatkoff hasn't done well in limited time. Outside help makes sense, but the Kings' salary cap situation makes that difficult even if Quick is on long-term injury reserve. They may have the space now but becoming cap compliant when Quick returns presents another problem down the line and could restrict them improving their team at the trade deadline.

HANZAL NOT SO HOT:

According to The Ottawa Sun's Bruce Garrioch the Arizona Coyotes have been attempting to move mammoth centre Martin Hanzal all season, but haven't found a fit. The Coyotes are searching for "a prospect and, at least, a second-round selection," which seems like a price most contenders would gladly do depending on the quality of prospect. Fitting in Hanzal's 3.1 milllion should be very manageable and extra centre depth is always valuable come playoff time. Hanzal's only concern come from injury as he hasn't played over 70 games since 2010, but he's been mostly healthy this season dressing in 26 out of the Coyotes' 31 games.

For Arizona, this only makes sense as they're destined for the bottom of the standings. Moving Hanzal acquires more assets and worsens the team in the hunt for the highest draft pick. Arizona has high quality centre prospects coming down the pipeline to replace Hanzal, but could always revisit a long-term deal in the offseason. 

Hanzal would fit well with Montréal, Columbus, and just about any playoff team, making him an incredibly attractive piece for Arizona to dangle.

Stats from puckalytics.com, capfriendly.com, and hockey-reference.com.

E06eff1475412688f1789690960cfb3f
I like to read and write about sports. I'm @chrispagnani on Twitter.
Comments are closed for this article.