SUNRISE, Fla. — In Kevin Dineen’s first season with the Florida Panthers, the team won its first division title and ended a decade-plus playoff skid. A year and a half removed from one of the franchise’s highest points, Dineen was fired.
The Panthers dismissed him Friday, with the team off to a start that mirrored last season when Florida finished at the bottom of the NHL.
The move came one day after a 4-1 loss at Boston extended the Panthers’ losing streak to seven games.
General Manager Dale Tallon called it the “first of many changes,” adding “it’s easier to fire a coach than it is to fire 23 players.”
Tallon said Dineen worked hard but that the coaching staff’s message was not getting through to players – and for that, he blamed the players in the locker room.
When the Panthers play at Ottawa on Saturday, it will be Peter Horachek – the former coach of the team’s AHL affiliate in San Antonio – behind the bench.
The Panthers are 3-9-4 this season and Dineen was told of the firing Friday morning.
Dineen was 56-62-28 in parts of three seasons.
Tallon said Dineen was emotional and upset when told of his dismissal, but was offered an opportunity to stay with the team in another capacity.
A veteran of 1,188 NHL games as a player with five teams, Dineen coached the Portland Pirates from 2005-2006 to 2010-2011, making the AHL playoffs in five of six seasons.
Eric Weinrich, a veteran of 18 NHL seasons who served as an assistant for five years for the Pirates under Dineen, expressed surprise his former boss was let go so early in the season.
“I watched a lot of the games and it’s clear their best players are not doing their job, not producing, and their younger players have been the best guys this year,” said Weinrich, who grew up in Gardiner and lives in Yarmouth. “When your best players are not playing well, it’s hard to coach.”
Weinrich, who scouts for the Buffalo Sabres, doubted Dineen will be unemployed for long.
“He’s got too much character and knows too much about hockey not to be a great hire for someone. In some capacity, he’s going to be a big part of some team,” he said. “I don’t imagine he’s going to sit around too long.”
In other bad news for the Panthers, forward Jesse Winchester was suspended three games without pay by the NHL for elbowing Boston forward Chris Kelly in Thursday’s loss.
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