PORTLAND – Rumors about his impending departure may be running rampant, but Portland Pirates Coach Kevin Dineen intends to focus on his job for the foreseeable future.

“Right now, I’m involved with helping my players make the next step, not only for the next couple of weeks, but for the next four or five months, and that’s where my focus is,” said Dineen, who began holding exit interviews with his players Wednesday after the Manchester Monarchs’ four-game sweep of the Pirates in the AHL Atlantic Division semifinals.

Last week, the Columbus Post-Dispatch reported Dineen was on the short list of candidates to replace Ken Hitchcock as coach of the NHL’s Columbus Bluejackets.

“It’s all conjecture,” said Dineen, who spent five years in Columbus as a player and working in player development. “I haven’t had any overtures so far this year.

“Historically, there have been some opportunities out there, (but) my comfort level has always been right here in Portland, improving as a coach and doing what I’ve done.”

During an interview Tuesday night in Manchester, N.H., Buffalo Sabres General Manager Darcy Regier said the Sabres want to keep Dineen as coach of the Pirates.

“You don’t have to worry about the Buffalo Sabres keeping Kevin Dineen in Portland,” he said. “It will be some other team in the National Hockey League taking Kevin Dineen out of there. I would be very surprised if he wasn’t on other teams’ list.”

After spending three seasons as coach of the Pirates when the AHL team was affiliated with the Anaheim Ducks, Dineen, 46, signed a two-year contract in 2008 to remain as head coach after the Sabres became the Pirates’ NHL parent club.

Regier hasn’t contemplated finding a replacement for Dineen.

“We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it,” he said. “I think a lot of (Dineen) and his staff. He’s our first choice and, hopefully, our only one.”

At the moment, it doesn’t sound like Dineen is thinking about making a move.

“You can play this cat-and-mouse game when these different opportunities arise, but I’m very proud and excited to be a part of the Buffalo organization,” he said.

“I was with the Anaheim Ducks for three years and now with Buffalo, and it’s been an incredible learning experience with both organizations.”

 

Staff Writer Paul Betit can be contacted at 791-6424 or at:

pbetit@pressherald.com