Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Smart Or Just Shady?

Have you or one of your friends ever lost a job or been passed over for a promotion? Usually we assume the person who gets chosen is either young and cheap or they have some sort of relationship with the boss.

Nepotism has long been one of the most prominent and often louche parts of business operations. Sports is full of it; franchise owners often bring in family members to help run the business while long time executives are left on the outside looking in.

Chalk up the Chicago Blackhawks as another franchise that has dabbled with the n-word.

The hockey team has "re-assigned" (see: fired) general manager Dale Tallon less than two months after the team he built made it to the Western Conference finals, the first time the Blackhawks have seen that kind of playoff success since Vanilla Ice was popular.

In Tallon's place goes assistant general manager, 36-year-old Stan Bowman--who just happens to be the son of legendary coach and current Blackhawks senior advisor of hockey operations, Scotty Bowman. To sum up: long time general manager ousted after a successful season and replaced by the senior advisor's young son.

Let the "life's not fair" lessons begin.

Before idealists like myself fl
y off the handle though, there are a few details that might make Tallon's dismissal more understandable.

First, though he did build last year's successful team, Tallon has had his share of huge blunders in the fre
e-agent market. He overpaid for several veterans that gave little in return, and just this past season he handed Marian Hossa a 12 year contract worth $62 million. That move looks great on the surface: steal talented player from arch-rival Red Wings and make your team better in the process. The problem is that Hossa is 30 years old. General sports logic says he will start declining within five years and then the Blackhawks will be stuck with a fossil who has an untradable contract.

Meanwhile, the Hossa deal forced Chicago to let Martin Havlat, last year's leading scorer, go and now young studs like Duncan Kieth, Jonathan Toews, and Patrick Kane will be much more
difficult to sign. Tallon says the Hossa deal won't jeopardize the re-signing of any young Blackhawks players, but now the team may have to overpay all the you studs since it overpaid for Hossa. Owners generally don't like that kind of news.

Tallon also takes the blame for a paperwork snafu that nearly cost the Blackhawks several restricted free-agent players. (Conspiracy theorists will say he was set up, but either way, he was the general manager when this happened.) It was a stupid mistake that should never happen in professional sports. Not a real good
way to keep the confidence of your boss.

Still, Blackhawks executive Rick Dudley left the team to take up a similar position with the Atlanta Thrashers a few weeks earlier. Why would an executive leave a franchise that was just one series away from the Stanly Cup finals with a young core of players in order to take up the same position with a team that has sucked forever? Maybe he saw the writing on the wall and got out while he could.

Stan Bowman could end up being a great general manager who helps put the Blackhawks over the top and bring a long awaited championship to the long suffering fans. Or maybe he just has the right D.N.A.

Something could be rotten in the state of Blackhawk.

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