It’s no secret that Kevin Dineen is one of my favorite players of all time. The former Hartford Whaler scored the game winning goal in the Hartford Whalers’ last game in Hartford in 1997. Even though the team left for Carolina almost 15 years ago, Dineen didn’t forget where his greatest success lied either as he attended the Hartford Whaler Fanfest back in August, and despite his other committments, stayed overtime to finish signing autographs for us fans. One of my most vivid memories form those days was how Dineen stayed on the ice after that last game against the Tampa Bay Lightning thanking all of the fans. It was clear that Dineen had the passion and drive that would translate to a college or professional coaching career.
It didn’t take long, as just a couple of years after calling it a career after playing for the Columbus Blue Jackets, Dineen answered the call to coach the Portland Pirates, now the affiliate of the Buffalo Sabres. What ensued was 6 successful seasons in Portland, including 5 years in the playoffs.
After 19 years and 355 goals (including a career best 45 goals for the Hartford Whalers back in 1988-89), and after 6 successful seasons as the Pirates’ head coach, Dineen was today named the new head coach for the Florida Panthers. The Panthers bring Dineen’s enthusiasm, passion and hockey knowledge to South Beach. Dineen to his credit evoked the image of the City’s other successful franchise, the Miami Heat in his introductory press conference. Wanting to continue the buzz that the Heat have brought to the Town, Dineen hopes that his team will stop the slide that they have encountered since their last playoff appearance in the 1999-2000 season. Not quite with the fanfare of their arena mates, LeBron and Chris Bosh, Dineen hopes to bring the same success on the ice.But how will Dineen do this?
The Panthers boast very strong goaltending as both of the team’s veteran goaltenders Tomas Vakoun and Scott Clemmensen finished the year with 2.50 GAA, but they are both in their mid 30’s. The Panthers’s goal scoring was the problem this season. Only seeing three players score more than 20 goals (and the leader only counted 23 goals to his resume), the Panthers finished 29th in the NHL in goals for. Scoring, unfortunately, is not something that can be coached. The team’s struggles will continue until a goal scorer or two emerge.
In the meantime, good luck to Mr. Dineen. I’ll be rooting for him.