PORTLAND – After interviewing for one head coaching position in the NHL and being rumored as a candidate for at least one other, Kevin Dineen will return for a sixth season at the helm of the Portland Pirates.
The Buffalo Sabres, parent club of the Pirates, renewed the contracts of Dineen and assistant coach Eric Weinrich Thursday.
Dineen, 46, has coached the Pirates longer than anyone in franchise history. And with 219 victories and 50 ties in 400 games, he also owns the highest winning percentage (.610).
In an 18-year career as a player, Dineen skated for four NHL franchises, including the Columbus Blue Jackets, who interviewed him this spring for their head coaching position. Dineen was one of four finalists for the job, which in early June went to Scott Arniel, former coach of the AHL’s Manitoba Moose.
“You go through a long and extremely drawn-out interview process, and I was very comfortable with the way things went,” Dineen said Thursday night by phone from his family vacation retreat in Lake George, N.Y. “At the end of the day, when things don’t fall in place, there’s disappointment.”
Three other NHL teams hired new head coaches in June, with two of them coming from AHL ranks. John MacLean went from Lowell to the New Jersey Devils, and Guy Boucher went from Hamilton to the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The Atlanta Thrashers hired former Boston Bruins assistant Craig Ramsey as head coach.
Dineen said he had brief conversations with representatives from other clubs, “but Columbus was the one that was realistic.”
The Pirates have qualified for the playoffs in four of Dineen’s five seasons in Portland, under both Anaheim and Buffalo affiliations. He and his wife, Annie, have four children, and Dineen said they are happy to return to Maine.
“Everybody’s thrilled as a family,” he said. “That’s a real benefit to me, how much my wife and children love Portland. That really makes it easy.”
In Portland, Dineen is involved not only in coaching but also in player personnel decisions.
“I talk to agents every day,” he said. “We are very active in pursuing players right now. We’re looking for the right fit, not only for the Buffalo Sabres, but for us in Portland as well.”
Dineen agreed to a two-year deal. He said he is pleased to have Weinrich, 43, a fellow 18-year veteran of the NHL and former University of Maine player, return as well.
“That’s a good fit,” Dineen said. “I have a lot of confidence in his abilities to develop our young defensemen. I do come from a forward background, having played that position, so that’s how I tend to view the game.
“It’s great to have someone who can complement your strengths and fill in for your weaknesses.”
Dineen and Weinrich will head to Buffalo in early September, a few days before the start of training camp.
“I’ve been associated with Kevin in one way or another for the past four seasons,” Weinrich said in a prepared statement distributed by the Pirates, “and I look forward to working with him again and learning all I can from his experience and leadership of the team.”
In April, after the Pirates were eliminated by Manchester in a first-round playoff series, Buffalo General Manager Darcy Regier praised Dineen’s work.
“I think a lot of (Dineen) and his staff,” Regier told the Press Herald. “He’s our first choice and, hopefully, our only one.”
“When my time does come, I’ll certainly be prepared,” Dineen said of an eventual NHL coaching position.
“(Portland) has been a real special and incredible fit for us, and I consider myself lucky to be going back for a couple more years.”
Staff Writer Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or at: