Kevin Dineen has been relieved of his duties as head coach of the Florida Panthers, the team announced Friday. Also ousted are assistant coaches Gord Murphy and Craig Ramsey.
The team has named Peter Horachek interim head coach, with former Panthers Brian Skrudland and John Madden joining the staff as assistants. Horachek was the head coach of Florida's American Hockey League affiliate in San Antonio.
“After 16 games it was clear that our team needed a change in philosophy and direction,” said general manager Dale Tallon. “We have not met the expectations that we set forth at training camp and it is my responsibility to make the necessary changes to ensure that our club performs at its maximum potential. We thank Kevin, Gord and Craig for their hard work and dedication to our organization and the professionalism that they displayed throughout their tenure.”
In brining in the new staff, Tallon dipped into the front office for his assistants as Skrudland is the Panthers' director of player personnel and Madden was hired as a pro scout just prior to this season. Horachek was new to the Panthers this year after spending most of his NHL coaching career with the Nashville Predators organization, most recently as an assistant coach.
“Peter is a bright hockey mind who brings to our club a wealth of coaching knowledge,” said Tallon. “He is a focused, determined and demanding coach who has experienced great success at all levels of competition. Both Brian and John are proven winners who won multiple Stanley Cups and are individuals that our players know very well. With these additions, we are confident that we have a staff that will work tirelessly to bring continued success to our organization.”
It's not much of a surprise to see Dineen canned at this point. The Panthers higher-ups held a late-night meeting Tuesday after a 4-3 overtime loss to Edmonton. They opted not to make the change then, but the Panthers then lost to Boston 4-1 Thursday night.
Dineen posted a 56-62-28 record over the last three seasons as Panthers head coach. He came to the team as one of the hottest names in the coaching market after a successful seven-year run as head coach of the Portland Pirates in the AHL.
The former Whalers great who had 760 points over his NHL career led the Panthers to the playoffs in his first season behind the bench. In the abbreviated 2013 season, the Panthers finished dead last in the league. This year, only the Sabres and Flyers are behind Florida in the standings.
The Panthers have a roster with a mix of young up-and-comers and a smattering of past-prime veterans, some of whom were signed via professional tryout contracts this year because no one else wanted them.
The goaltending has not been good as the team is allowing 3.38 goals-per-game, which is third worst in the league. Offseason acquisition Tim Thomas has been injured much of the season and Jacob Markstrom, the club's apparent goalie of the future, has not been getting the job done in his absence.
The Panthers are also near the bottom of the league in goals scored with 1.94. So there's plenty of blame to go around.
The Panthers issues likely go far beyond coaching. The team is kind of in a rebuilding limbo right now. Since becoming general manager, Tallon has built a sound prospect pool for the Panthers, but many of those players are still years away from being NHL ready.
That means Tallon is going to have to try and make some moves. It's unclear what kind of return he's going to be able to get for a lot of the players on his roster, though. There are core pieces like Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov, who would be untouchable, but after that, it's tough to see any franchise-altering deals he'll be able to swing.
Dineen wasn't getting much out of the roster he had and it's understandable why the Panthers would want to try and switch things up before they get worse, but Florida's problems don't come with a lot of easy solutions.