Question: Before we go to the future I want to look back on that last game 7. Take us through your emotions when the Panthers tied it and then after, the ending…
Tallon: Well obviously I get involved. I get involved in every game. You know I was disappointed after two periods and then got my hopes up after the third period. It was a series that came down to one goal. A differential of one goal in seven games. That is tough to take. I was very hopeful, we had a great first overtime period and had many chances to win that game and had a chance to win with 17 seconds to go when Steeger (Kris Versteeg) had that backhand shot that if it’s an inch higher it’s in, but overall it’s disappointing, but bittersweet. We had a great year but a tough way to lose. Our exit meetings with the players showed the players were very upset and disappointed, they weren’t satisfied with the year and that’s the great thing. We will use this as a motivator for next year and our player’s realize that they were that close and they regret not having the ability to score that goal to win the game and put us in the next series. So it’s all good. The players are not satisfied. I’m not satisfied. Our organization is not satisfied. We’ve come a long way and we still have a long way to go and I’m excited about our future. We are probably ahead of schedule as far as this year went, but the good news is we got to the play-offs, won our division, a lot of guys had career years and we’ve got a good strong nucleus now so we can add some really good young pieces to it as we move forward. So the blueprint still in place and yet we’ve had a monocle of success this year.
Question: Stepehn Weiss said that the best thing for him is knowing who the coach is knowing who his teammates are going to be. There is a stability here that hasn’t been here in a while. Moving forward how important is that?
Tallon: It’s very, very important. You have to have stability. You can’t expect loyalty from your players and dedication from your players if they are not sure who’s going to be telling them what to do and what direction they are heading in, so a lot of positives moving forward. We’ve come a long way in a short period of time and I really appreciate the support from our coaches and players for really buying into what we want to do here and wanting to buy in and come to Florida and helping us change the culture. It’s been a real positive step for us and as I said we are looking forward to the future.
Question: Did you expect the progress this year to be what is was?
Tallon: I just want to get better every day, and get better and have a better season than we had last year and keep getting better every year, and that’s what happened in the past. This just kind of exploded, 22-point differential that was beyond expectations with 15 new players. But having said that, once we saw the work ethic of the coaches, and I’ve got to give Kevin Dineen a lot of credit in putting this team together as quickly (as he did). We got off to a .500 start as I said we were 3-3 in the first six games and then we made a couple of moves and then these players didn’t allow themselves to fail. They really bought in, they showed a lot of character. It’s a great group. This is one of the best groups of guys I have ever been involved with in a long time. I had a great group of young guys in Chicago with great character, but this is a real veteran solid core, good group of guys that really cared and played with a passion. It was a pleasure to come to work every day and be involved with this group. I’m real proud of them.
Question: Some of the guys you brought in here: Bergey (Sean Bergenheim), Soup (Brian Campbell), (Kris) Versteeg, (Tomas) Fleischmann, etc. there might have been some disappointment though. I’d like to get your take on some of the guys like (Scottie) Upshall, (Tomas) Kopecky, (Matt) Bradley. I know injuries had to do with that…
Tallon: Well injuries you know… Uppy (Scottie Upshall) played hurt when he did play and wasn’t healthy until the end and Game 7 you saw how Scottie could play and that’s what I expect of him moving forward. I thought Kopy (Tomas Kopecky) played hard every night, I mean he didn’t take a shift off in any game. He’s a leader in the locker room and kills penalties. His production was probably down but his overall play wasn’t. I thought every shift of every game, he played as hard as anybody every night and really cares and brings a lot of character to our team. There weren’t any disappointments. The only disappointment was not getting to the next round. My exit meetings compared from last year to this year, the guys left on a positive note. We had great conversations, but no one was satisfied with the year and that’s a good thing so overall I’m pretty satisfied with what the guys brought to the table this year.
Question: in terms of free agency, how much more desirable a location do you think this will be viewed around the league now as a landing spot, and how much easier does that make your job of recruiting?
Tallon: I think we sent a message to everyone in the hockey world that this is the place to be. Why wouldn’t you want to be here? Our fans are really supportive. They really came on. It was great to see them in the playoffs and all season long the support we got for a team that hasn’t been in the playoffs in over a decade, they really supported us really well and showed tremendous enthusiasm and energy in the playoffs and sell-outs and good energy and I think the message has been sent that this team means business and we really are going to move forward and are going to be a championship team eventually and that this is a fun place to be.
Question: How active do you expect to be in free agency?
Tallon: As active as we can be. We do have to make room for some of our young guys. We’ve got some great assets coming, and this is when it gets exciting. Now we can add pieces, our own products that we’ve drafted and developed over the last couple of years and now we’re going to start adding those pieces to the puzzle and that will be a really exciting part for this franchise, and then if we can be successful in free agency as well then the future looks very bright for us.
Question: I know you can’t name names but is there a specific kind of role player you’re looking for in free agency?
Tallon: Well were always looking to get better. Obviously I’d like to score more goals so my stomach won’t get tied up in knots. I’d like to win some more games easier, but it’s hard to win in the NHL today with the new situation as far as the cap, teams are so close. You can see all the upsets in the playoffs, and the teams that didn’t make the playoffs as well. On any given night anybody can win. I would like to get some more offense and be able to win some games more easily than grinding it out in every overtime. You look back on our year, and it comes down to skill as far as shootouts and overtimes. If we were able to win most of those, or half of those, it would have been an unbelievable season point wise as far as the regular season goes. In the playoffs you need to be able to score some goals and with the core that we have and the defense and goaltending that we have, if we can add some offense we will be in good shape.
Question: Looking at negotiations, have you started anything yet?
Tallon: We are going to back to at it now. Mike Santos and I have had meetings that we are going to get back heavily into it and were going to try and keep this team together, and start talking again to their agents, and get the guys signed that need to be signed.
Question: Is it safe to assume that guys like (Jason) Garrison and (Kris) Versteeg are priorities?
Tallon: Yes. They are priorities. After our exit meetings, we had great conversations, they want to be here and we want them here so hopefully we can get something done.
Question: And of the veterans you brought, the six guys. Of all six, is it also safe to assume that maybe (Mikael) Samuelsson is one of the guys you’d like back?
Tallon: Sammy was great, on and off the ice and had a great finish for us, and looks forward to helping our young guys as well and that’s a guy that yeah definitely. He’s a world class person and he scored some big goals for us and I like what he brings to the table off the ice as well.
Question: (Wojtek) Wolski, he is a UFA correct?
Tallon: Yeah well he’s got a lot of skill and we’re going to have some tough decisions to make as far as our future is concerned. It’s hard to find skill, and so we have to look and see if that works. If that keeps (Jonathan) Huberdeau out of the line-up then we have to look at it, and you know we’ve got (Quinton) Howden and (Alex) Petrovic and all these young guys that are coming and we need to make room for them as well.
Question: And (Jacob) Markstrom, is the kid ready? We see Clemms (Scott Clemmensen) contract’s up…he had a hell of a year.
Tallon: Clemm’s a great pro. I have nothing but admiration for him. He’s one of the best pros I’ve ever been around. We like him a lot. You can never have enough depth in goal so we’ll continue conversations with him as well. Marky (Jacob Markstrom) is really developing, and has a had a really good playoffs so far and he’s gone back since his knee has been fixed and has really carried San Antonio into the playoffs and has got them in the second round so he’s a guy that we really have high hopes for.
Question: With that said, I Imagine you won’t want him sitting behind Theo (Jose Theodore)?
Tallon: No, but we will figure that out. We’ve got a lot of time to figure that out. Let him play and enjoy this opportunity in San Antonio and he’s our goaltender of the future no doubt.
Question: How important is this playoff run for him, experience wise.
Tallon: I think it’s really good for his confidence and his conditioning. He’s had an up-and-down couple of years with the knee and now the knee is healthy and he feels good and he’s the number one guy there and is playing all the games, and has been outstanding. I have no doubts that he will be a tremendous goaltender in this league.
Question: How nice or important is it for San Antonio to make a deep run in the playoffs?
Tallon: It’s really important. We’ve got a lot of our kids down there too. Not only to just watch and be around but to get an early taste of it before they get to their first pro training camp. Some of these guys, I think Howden is going to play. Petrovic is playing. Drew Shore is playing. Markstrom is playing. All of our young guys are down there. (Vincent) Trocheck is down there, whether he’ll play or not that’s up to the coach obviously. I think we’ve got 17 kids down there either practicing or watching so it’s the first taste of professionalism and playoff competition that will help them expedite their development.
Question: I know you don’t want to rush guys but are you just salivating over Huberedeau, with the numbers?
Tallon: Exactly. I’m salivating about all of our prospects. We’ve got a tremendous number of prospects so this franchise is in good shape and that’s how were going to be successful is building through the draft and developing in our minor league system. Last year was a unique situation where we were able to get all of these top free agents to come in here and help us mold a solid core so that these young guys can come in and be well schooled and mentored by this strong group that we have in place now.
Question: Your thoughts on how Kevin (Dineen) did this year?
Tallon: I think he did an outstanding job. He did more than I thought he can do, tremendous on and off the ice. The guys has worked extremely hard and is passionate about, he’s everything I expected and more. I think he’s a strong candidate for Coach of the Year, and I’m disappointed he wasn’t nominated, but in my books he’s one of the strong candidates for that award and he had a great year.
Question: The defensive core looks so solid; young and talented. Can you talk a little bit about (Keaton) Ellerby and Kuli (Dmitry Kulikov) and how they fit in. They are both RFA’s.
Tallon: They’re here. They are good young players and they are a big part of our future and along with (Erik) Gudbranson and Petrovic and then you add the veteran guys that we have. That’s good goaltending, strong defense and a lot of scoring can only help.
Question: How’d you like Guddy (Erik Gudbranson) in the playoffs?
Tallon: We saw this young guy develop into a man right before our own eyes. Every month he got better and better and better and I’m so glad we kept him, and kept him through the World Juniors. He just got better each month and I’m real proud of him. He had a tremendous finish to the year, and I thought in the playoffs he didn’t take a back seat to anyone. It was really fun to watch this guy develop and it’s going to be more fun to see him grow and become a man.
Question: What was your reaction to the fans support as the season went on…and after talking to them (fans) you hear the word pride thrown around a lot…
Tallon: I even said this last year when we weren’t very good that the support I thought was tremendous, and it goes back to where the history of the team had been, but this year we got better and better and it was fun. These fans deserve a team that can make the playoffs. They were very supportive. I thought the playoffs were tremendous; the building was rocking. It was great. The players enjoyed it and that only can help motivate and can only help future prospects to want to come here to see the way the fans reacted to us. I take my hat off to them. They were outstanding, they really helped motivate us.
Question: What did you learn about (Stephen) Weiss and the way he handled playoff run and is an extension something you would look at at this time?
Tallon: We haven’t gotten there. He’s still got two years left on his deal. I’m so proud of him because the first phone call I made the day I got the job was to him, and I asked him what his thoughts were, and he wanted to be involved. And for him to get to the playoffs and have a bright future in this organization, I’m really happy for Stephen. He showed a lot of character and class all year, and since I’ve been with him for two years I can’t say enough about how he’s handled things. He’s a world-class kid.
Question: If there is one negative, would you say it was the overtime defeats and maybe five-on-five play?
Tallon: Yeah. If you look back on it, it becomes less of a team game. It becomes a skill game in the shootout and some years you’re successful in shootouts and others you’re not. It didn’t effect us getting into the playoffs so that was a positive. If we had missed the playoffs because of it, I would have been really upset. The fact of the matter is we were still able to overcome that and make the playoffs, win our division and make a good run in the playoffs. That’s a cyclical thing. Some teams get hot and other teams don’t and next year we might win all of the shootout games. We just don’t know. It becomes an individual thing, a skill thing but that’s correctable.
Question: Your take on the CBA matters. Are you concerned?
Tallon: I have no feelings one way or another. I just hope it gets done. Period. Right now I’m working on getting ready for the Draft. That’s our next priority and then get ready for free agency and then get ready for our developmental camp and then rookie camp. It’s business as usual for us. That’s all I’m concerned about. Let those powers at be take care of that.
Question: Going back to the kids. Obviously there’s Huberdeau. Are there others that you would like to see make the jump next season?
Tallon: I would like to see Drew Shore, Petrovic, you go down the line and Howden, (John) McFarland. (Nick) Bjugstad obviously, we don’t know what’s going to happen there. But we have a stable of young guys that we’re really high on and they’re going to get every opportunity to make our team and I like young. I like to be the youngest team and win with the youngest team.
Question: Can you compare those guys to when you brought in (Jonathan) Toews and (Patrick) Kane in Chicago?
Tallon: Well Toews and Kane are special players but so is Huberdeau and so is Gudbranson. They’re different players but Bjugstad, (Rocco) Grimaldi, Howden, you go down the list and we’ve got depth. It’s probably deeper with more players. It’s a very similar process.
Question: How are you guys looking at the NHL Draft with a lower pick than you’re used to?
Tallon: We’re going to get a good player. This year’s draft, there’s really no clear-cut Top 10. A lot of them are similar and we’re going to get a very good player where we’re picking. I’m not quite sure where we are picking now but the great thing is we won’t be in the front row. We’ll be closer to the back row and that’s where we want to be the rest of our careers.
Tallon: Thank you for your support this year. It’s been great. I really appreciate all of the help. It’s been a real positive year for our franchise and I really appreciate all of what you guys have done. It’s been a pleasure working with you.
Question: Another question. Are you going to try to qualify for the US Open?
Tallon: Yes I am.
Question: Do you have your paper work in?
Tallon: Yes I’m all in. June 18th. It’s a qualifier. I’m going to go in Chicago. My one and only event of the year. It’s one of those day’s where you have a good day and you’re in and if you have a bad day and that’s it. I like the odds. It’s a good chance. I need to keep the competitive fires burning to get over Game 7.