March 16, 2010

Dineen will stay to coach Pirates

RACHEL LENZI

— By

Staff Writer

The voice-mail greeting on the phone Monday in the Portland Pirates' hockey operations office might have been a leftover from the past three years.

''Hi, it's Kevin Dineen. I can't make it to the phone, so leave a message and I'll get back to you as soon as possible. Thank you.''

The message won't need to be changed any time soon.

Dineen will be introduced as the Pirates' head coach at 2 p.m. today in the Captain's Club at the Cumberland County Civic Center.

''I'll be there (at the press conference),'' Dineen said Monday night. ''I'm excited about this opportunity.''

His appointment as Portland's coach ends a summer of speculation.

Dineen coached the Pirates for the last three seasons while the NHL's Anaheim Ducks were Portland's parent club. But in June, the Ducks left Portland and the Pirates entered into an affiliation with the Buffalo Sabres. And Dineen appeared to be heading elsewhere.

With the affiliation change, Randy Cunneyworth was expected to become Portland's new coach. Cunneyworth coached the Rochester (N.Y.) Americans, Buffalo's previous AHL farm club, for eight years. In July, however, he left the Sabres' organization to take an assistant coaching job with the Atlanta Thrashers.

Dineen's contract with the Ducks expired at the end of June. Still, he's had opportunities to remain with the Ducks' organization, either as head coach of their new AHL affiliate in Des Moines, Iowa, or as a professional scout.

But with Cunneyworth heading to Atlanta, Dineen became the Sabres' top candidate to fill the Portland opening.

''You can say we've had some positive discussions and we're looking forward to wrapping things up soon,'' Dineen said on July 25.

In Dineen's three years as head coach, the Pirates were 135-76-13-16. Twice under Dineen, the Pirates came within one win of advancing to the AHL's Calder Cup finals.

The Pirates finished 45-26-5-4 this past season and lost to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in the Eastern Conference final.

One of Dineen's first duties will be to assemble a coaching staff.

On Monday, Eric Weinrich said he hopes to join the Pirates' new staff as an assistant.

''When (the Sabres) came in to announce the new affiliation, I talked with (Buffalo General Manager) Darcy Regier,'' said Weinrich, a Maine native who played in the NHL for 18 years and with the Pirates the past two seasons.

''I'm on his radar. He said he was interested in having a guy fill a spot to work with defensemen, and I'm on the list.''

Staff Writer Rachel Lenzi can be reached at 791-6415 or at:

rlenzi@pressherald.com

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