Predictably, for someone who'd just received a two-year contract extension to stay on with the team as a special advisor, Dale Tallon stayed strictly on message Wednesday, when pressed for details about his untimely ending as the Chicago Blackhawks' general manager.
Tallon was effectively kicked upstairs Tuesday by an organization seeking to go in a "different" direction. Considering that, under Tallon's watch, the Blackhawks have done nothing but improve, one wonders in which direction - other than up - they plan to go.
But it was all sweetness and light as Tallon, often sounding frustrated by the tone of questions, kept painting a positive picture about his so-called promotion. Tallon is a company man who has held a variety of different jobs in the organization, beginning in 1973 when he joined the team as a player in a trade from the Vancouver Canucks.
As such, he was doing nothing to rock the boat.
"I am very fortunate to be with the Blackhawks and I'm comfortable with the position I'm in right now," began Tallon, as if reading from a script. "I'm in a good place. I'm still working for the Chicago Blackhawks, a franchise that's deep in my own blood. I'm passionate about the Blackhawks. To have an opportunity to help this team win a Stanley Cup, I'm very fortunate."
Tallon was reassigned to his new job - as senior advisor to the new general manager, Stan Bowman - by Blackhawks president John McDonough. McDonough joined the team almost two years ago from the Chicago Cubs and has overseen a significant change in the team's front office.
Tallon characterized his conversation with McDonough as "cordial" and noted: "He wanted to take the team in a different direction and I was fine with it. Though my position has changed, my goal has not - all I want to do is help win the Stanley Cup; and I can continue to do that for the next three years. That brings me up to 2012.
"The discussion was cordial, businesslike and we agreed this was best for the franchise."
In the past few days, ex-Blackhawk Martin Havlat, who was not re-signed by the team, has gone on Twitter several times, blaming McDonough for the breakdown in talks that led to him eventually leaving to join the Minnesota Wild.
Tallon said negotiations with Havlat's agent, Allen Walsh, were conducted the same way as usual - with no interference from above.
Havlat characterized Tallon as a "second father" in one of his messages - and that sentiment appeared to run right through the team. Last November, after Tallon's father passed away, the players surprised Tallon by taking a bus from Toronto to Gravenhurst, Ont., to attend the wake. Tallon was greatly moved by the unexpected gesture, which came out of the blue.
About half-a-dozen players have subsequently called Tallon to commiserate about his fate.
"These are quality kids that understand I'm still going to be a big part of their lives," said Tallon. "I have an open line of communication with them. It's all about winning and team. These guys are incredible kids and players. They have tremendous character. They're going to get the job done.
"It's been all positive - every conversation."
Tallon was one of the few holdovers from the Bill Wirtz regime to survive. Wirtz's son, Rocky, now the team's chairman, suggested one reason for the change was that Tallon was 58, and his replacement some 20 years his junior.
Tallon said he was not offended by Wirtz's remarks.
"I am 58," he said. "I have a very young mind; I'm agile and very fit. I love the Wirtz family; they've been great to me; but I've still got some fight in me. This is a decision I'm comfortable with; I have no problem with it."
Tallon repeated a version of that comment half-a-dozen times in a conference call with reporters.
McDonough suggested that the Blackhawks' gaffe of failing to file the paperwork for signing restricted free agents contributed to the decision to re-assign Tallon to new duties.
"I'll take full responsibility for the lateness of that; it happened on my watch, so I'll take the responsibility for it."
McDonough said a second contributing factor were issues in communication between him and Tallon.
"Obviously, there was," said Tallon. "There was no intent. Sometimes it just happens. When you're traveling and on the road a lot and you've got a lot of things on your plate, sometimes things slip through the cracks."
Did Tallon see the move coming?
"There's never a right time for this," he answered. "You never know. In this job, you're always prepared. You make sure you're ready for whatever might come your way. It's a day-to-day situation."
Tallon added: "I'm moving on. The glass is half full. I'm excited about the future of the Blackhawks."Report Typo/Error