SAN JOSE, Calif. -- There were, as you would expect, smiles all around the Chicago Blackhawks dressing room inside HP Pavilion on Monday, but not just because they're up 1-0 in the Western Conference Final.
A good man and a good friend to a lot of these Hawks is getting his second chance in Florida.
Dale Tallon, who was named the new general manager of the Florida Panthers on Monday, is considered the architect of this Blackhawks team that is three wins away from reaching the Stanley Cup Final.
He was Chicago's GM from Nov. 5, 2003 through July 14, 2009 and drafted, signed or traded for 16 of the 20 players that were in the Blackhawks lineup on Sunday here in San Jose. Only 2002 draft picks Duncan Keith and Adam Burish along with '03 selections Brent Seabrook and Dustin Byfuglien were acquired before Tallon took over for Bob Pulford.
"We all said a long time ago that Dale has been a big part of what has gone on here," said current Chicago GM Stan Bowman, who added that he spoke to Tallon on the phone and wished him nothing but the best. "There are a lot of things you need to do to reach the level we're at, and Dale is a big contributor. He's a great guy, a great person and I'm sure he'll have a great year there in Florida."
Captain Jonathan Toews said when Tallon was removed as GM over the summer it felt similar to when Denis Savard was removed as coach four games into the 2008-09 season. To Toews, nothing can replace the feeling he has for Tallon, the man who drafted him, and Savard, the guy who entrusted him with plenty of ice time as an 19-year-old.
"You remember where it all started, being drafted, and accepting that jersey knowing I was part of the Hawks family and meeting Dale and everyone else," Toews said. "The first coach, the first GM that you played for, you feel like you owe so much to those people that really made it happen for you and gave you these opportunities."
Toews is genuinely thrilled that Tallon will get a fresh start in South Florida.
"When things change and people are let go in an organization it's tough to deal with that," he said. "You can't really say anything that is going to make them feel any better, so it's great to see Dale get another chance in Florida. I'm really happy for him and I'm sure he'll do a great job. He deserves that second chance."
Patrick Kane also feels a special connection with Tallon because of the risk the former Hawks GM took in making young No. 88 the first pick in the 2007 Entry Draft.
"You never have really seen a guy with my size go that high in the draft, but I'll remember that he had that courage and sense to pick a guy like myself," Kane said.
Tallon was close to Toews and Kane especially. He helped them through their very exciting and, at times, trying rookie seasons in 2007-08.
"For any player it's difficult to come in and deal with all the things being thrown at you early in your career," Toews said, "but he's the type of guy that makes you feel comfortable and really got me started off on the right foot."
Tallon has a similar rebuilding project on his hands in Florida. Nobody in the Hawks family doubts he'll have that team contending soon.
"He built a special team (in Chicago) and I feel fortunate to be a part of it," said Hawks coach Joel Quenneville, who Tallon hired as Savard's replacement on Oct. 16, 2008. "I just think that his experience here is going to help him out in a situation there in Florida. We're the beneficiary of a lot of Dale's work here."
Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl