x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Tallon firing could backfire for Hawks

You wanna know how you do it? Here's how, they pull a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue.

You wanna know how you do it? Here's how, they pull a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue. That's the Chicago way, and that's how you get Capone! Now do you want to do that? Are you ready to do that? If you've seen the movie The Untouchables starring Sean Connery and Kevin Costner, you know the above quote is Connery, as an old Irish beat cop, telling Costner's straight-laced lawyer-type character the down-and-dirty "Chicago way" to capturing mafia mastermind Al Capone.

But it could just as easily be an old Blackhawks fan telling a novice supporter of the team how things work on the Chicago sports scene. Especially when it comes to the Hawks, who in mid-July pulled the carpet out from under their general manager, Dale Tallon, just like they did on their coach, Denis Savard, when they replaced him after just four games at the start of the 2008-09 season. Then again, the decision to fire Savard and bring in a more experienced bench boss in Joel Quenneville seemed to work out well. The young Hawks responded favourably to Quenneville's demanding ways, advancing to the Western Conference play-off final. More significantly, the franchise have stabilised and found their direction after wandering in the hockey wilderness for 15 years. There is hope in Chicago, and Tallon deserves credit for delivering some of the relief and belief.

In fact, it can be argued that Chicago's brand new day occurred under Tallon's watch - and thus, that he did not deserve to be unceremoniously shuffled off to another post within the organisation. The Hawks' Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane - around whom the team are being built - were drafted under Tallon. Patrick Sharp, obtained in a Tallon trade, blossomed in Chicago. The Marian Hossa signing was much too long, but the upshot is, Tallon landed the most sought-after free agent on the market. What else?

Tallon kept goalie Nikolai Khabibulin last season after signing U$5.5m (Dh33.4m) Cristobal Huet, and it ended up being Khabibulin who led the team back into the play-offs. It was Tallon who grabbed Sami Pahlsson at the trade deadline for his play-off prowess - and, it was Tallon who signed free agent John Madden to replace Pahlsson heading into this season. But none of that was good enough for Tallon to save his job. It is curious, though there were a few other factors - such as the Hawks embarrassingly missing a league deadline in filing paperwork regarding their restricted free agents, and ending up paying a bit more for their own players. It could have turned ugly if the likes of Kris Versteeg and Cam Barker had played hardball and tried to become unrestricted free agents. But everyone signed, so no harm, right? Apparently not.

Age, even, was suggested, with 59-year-old Tallon giving way to the college boy Bowman, who is all innocence and lollipops. Ridiculous. The person getting most of the credit or blame for Tallon's firing is team president John McDonough, who joined the Blackhawks two years ago after saving baseball's Cubs from their free-falling ways. There is a feeling that McDonough wanted his own GM, just as he wanted his coach.

The paperwork foul-up presented an excuse to make a move, and it appears McDonough took it. In the long run, it might work out for the Hawks - if Stan Bowman is anywhere close as an executive to what his father was as a coach, Chicago just hired the most brilliant GM in NHL history. Or, they just fired the guy who pulled the franchise out of the muck, for no good reason whatsoever. @Email:smccaig@thenational.ae