The Florida Panthers have no excuses if they fail to reach the Stanley Cup Playoffs next season.
"Make the playoffs, make the playoffs," general manager Dale Tallon told NHL.com during the recent NHL Scouting Combine in Buffalo. "That's our first goal and we'll take it from there."
The Panthers have reached the playoffs twice in the past 17 seasons. That's a trend Tallon hopes to help change.
They already made a major splash hiring Joel Quenneville as coach on April 8. Quenneville was behind the bench of the Chicago Blackhawks for three Stanley Cup titles (2010, 2013, 2015) and brings the type of no-nonsense attitude Florida is looking for.
"Our owner (Vincent Viola) has made a commitment, and now it's up to us," Tallon said. "We will look at all the outlets possible to improve."
In a wide-ranging interview with NHL.com, Tallon discussed his relationship with Quenneville and the impact he will have on the team, and how aggressive the Panthers plan to be this summer.
You've been quite outspoken about how active you plan to be this offseason trying to add talent to your roster. Which avenues will you explore to do that? Free agency? The NHL Draft? Via trade?
"All of the above. Whatever we can to get better without jeopardizing our future. The key is how we handle that and what's the right fit moving forward."
What positions and aspects of your team do you need to address this summer?
"Obviously our goals against last year was not very good at 5-on-5. Our power play and penalty killing was very good. We have some good players. It's just a matter of keeping the puck out of our own net. Goaltending and defense have to be better."
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Is there any specific position you are looking to address with the No. 13 pick in the 2019 NHL Draft on June 21-22 in Vancouver?
"Yeah, we've got nine picks this year, nine picks the following year. You still have to draft well and develop and mentor. That's the goal right now. Free agency and trades augment after that. We're going to stay where we are, stick with the plan and make sure the present doesn't interfere with the future."
You and Quenneville worked together in Chicago and helped the Blackhawks win a Stanley Cup there in 2010. How has the relationship been between you and Coach Q since the Panthers hired him earlier this spring?
"lt's been great. It's like we haven't missed a beat. It's like we've been together the whole time. I look forward to going to work now more than ever. Such a good guy, so smart, so dedicated, it's going to be a whole different process for us."
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Do you think Quenneville is rejuvenated with his change of scenery after so many successful years in Chicago?
"I think so. I feel it. We both feel it together. We both have a lot to accomplish, yet and we look forward to the challenge together."
What does Coach Q bring to the table?
"I think he gives us a presence we haven't had. It gives us credibility to free agents. Players we talk to now know we're right into it for all the right reasons and that Vinny has made a commitment, and that's a great start for us."
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