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Tallon just a victim of the process
By Mike Imrem | Daily Herald Columnist
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Published: 7/15/2009 12:00 AM

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The new NHL requires front-office executives to have new skill sets.

A good guess is, that more than anything is why Stan Bowman replaced Dale Tallon as Blackhawks general manager Tuesday.

All sports leagues evolve, and all franchises within those leagues have to evolve with them to survive.

Chicago is littered with examples.

In the mid-1970s the Halas family hired Jim Finks as general manager to modernize the Bears.

In the early 1980s the Tribune Company hired Dallas Green to execute the same assignment for the Cubs.

In the early to mid-1980s Jerry Reinsdorf had to update and upgrade the White Sox and the Bulls after buying them.

We're talking about department by department - everything from scouting to marketing to public relations to stadium operations.

Hawks owner Rocky Wirtz hired club president John McDonough in 2007 to bring the franchise into the 21st century.

The NHL locked out players five seasons ago, and when they returned the next year a new economic structure, collective-bargaining agreement and rule book were in place.

Until then hockey still was an old-school game, sort of what football, baseball and basketball were decades ago.

NHL leadership like Hawks owner Bill Wirtz was dusty. General managers like Tallon became were former players from the 1970s and '80s.

After the lockout Tallon suddenly was required to manage a complicated system as deftly as he managed the roster.

Maybe that's why the Hawks were vulnerable to the mistake made last month - missing the deadline for mailing qualifying offers to restricted free agents.

Even after Tuesday's news conference to introduce Bowman, nothing was clear as to why the error occurred or who was directly responsible.

For all any outsiders know, Bowman had as much to do with the mess as Tallon, but McDonough said he himself was accountable for repairing the process.

The solution was Tallon out and Bowman in.

Tallon is 58 years old and Bowman is 36 years old. It isn't so much the age as the era from which each comes.

Older NHL types were conditioned to operate the way the league had pre-lockout and younger ones are conditioned to operate the way it must post-lockout.

When Andy MacPhail became Cubs president in the mid-1990s, he said a baseball team needs a general manager with academic intellect.

Unfortunately MacPhail hired Ed Lynch, a former major-league pitcher who had a law degree but little sense in building a baseball champion.

Anyway, the point is that having played the game on the highest level isn't required anymore. Sox general manager Kenny Williams is an exception, but in fact playing experience is rare for pro GMs or college athletic directors.

McDonough likely sees in Bowman somebody with a blend of academic intellect and hockey intellect.

Bowman's credentials indicate that's correct, considering he is a Notre Dame grad with degrees in finance and computer applications, while also being the son of hockey genius Scotty Bowman.

In the new NHL, a general manager has to balance the business of hockey with the sport of hockey.

That's why the Blackhawks have a new GM this morning.