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The only real surprise: Tallon's exit didn't come sooner
By Barry Rozner | Daily Herald Columnist
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Published: 7/14/2009 1:31 AM | Updated: 7/14/2009 12:23 PM

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As was the case with Denis Savard, Dale Tallon should have never had the job.

And as was the case with Savard, John McDonough had only so much patience with so much incompetence.

The real surprise is that the team president waited as long as he did to fire Tallon, who was removed from the job Monday.

There was plenty of talk last week that Tallon was finished after he bungled qualifying offers to several restricted free agents, including Kris Versteeg and Cam Barker.

But it really goes back to last summer, when the Blackhawks brought in Scotty Bowman to look over Tallon's shoulder.

At that moment, Stan Bowman became the GM-in-waiting and Al MacIsaac became McDonough's right-hand man.

Tallon was already finished, whether he knew it or not, and McDonough was merely waiting to see if Tallon could deliver a team good enough to make the Stanley Cup Finals before Tallon made another big mistake.

He was entering the final year of his contract and if he didn't win the Cup next season, he was most certainly finished anyway.

What's shocking is that he got this far to begin with, considering how he began his management career.

Tallon became close friends with Peter Wirtz, and so Tallon got whatever he wanted.

That's the way it worked in those days.

Tallon wanted to leave the broadcast booth and become an executive, so Wirtz made it happen.

They brought Billy Gardner in from Carolina to take Tallon's place in the booth, but when Tallon decided he didn't want to work for the very bizarre Mike Smith, the Hawks fired Gardner, and Tallon went back to broadcasting.

And to this day, no one, including Tallon, has apologized to Gardner.

Once Smith was gone, Tallon was back in the front office and on the fast track to becoming GM.

Peter Wirtz handed him the job and they hired Trent Yawney to be the coach, a smart move since Yawney had developed the Hawks' best young players, including a few still with the team today.

But when the coach wouldn't play the GM's favorite players, high draft picks or expensive free agents, choosing instead to play those who had earned their playing time, Tallon panicked and fired one of the best young coaches in the game, who had given 15 years of his life to the sweater he loved.

Tallon was effective in scouting and drafting, though as high as the Hawks were picking - because they were so bad - they should have been getting good players and improving the product.

They did, but then Tallon unwisely wasted huge sums of money on big free agents Brian Campbell and Cristobal Huet.

He butchered the cap situation to the point where the Hawks have already spent $43 million in 2010-11 when the cap is expected to fall to about $50 million, and it doesn't include new contracts for Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Duncan Keith, which will put the Hawks at about $60 million for roughly half a roster.

So Tallon was on very thin ice even before the recent qualifying-offer fiasco that forced the Hawks to overpay in new deals for Versteeg and Barker.

That was the final straw, and there was talk over the weekend that Tallon wouldn't make it to the upcoming convention.

Turns out he did not.

It didn't help that Tallon has been telling people around the league - or having ex-Hawks employee Rick Dudley, a Tallon pal, tell people around the league - that McDonough was a nightmare to work for and blaming the team president for the signings of Campbell and Huet.

That kind of stuff gets around fast, and people all around the league have been talking about how dysfunctional the Hawks' front office had become, with so many voices pulling in so many different directions.

Those days are now officially over, as are the ways of the past.

Rocky Wirtz doesn't work like his father or his brother, and there are no more handouts on West Madison Street.

Tallon is a very popular man among the fans, and just like with the firing of Savard, there's going to be a backlash.

But that lasted only as long as it took them to see what a professional coach could do.

And, similarly, it won't take them long to see what a professional GM can do.