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Dineen's Playing Experiences Help Him As NHL Coach

Monday, 04.9.2012 / 11:32 AM ET / Features
By Alain Poupart  - NHL.com Correspondent
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Dineen\'s Playing Experiences Help Him As NHL Coach

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Now that the Florida Panthers are back in the playoffs, general manager Dale Tallon should get ready to start receiving some well-deserved kudos for the way he reshaped the team's roster last summer with an influx of veterans, most of whom performed up to expectations, and often beyond.

But there was another decision Tallon made a month before all those moves that was just as important, if not more, and he obviously hit the mark when he hired Kevin Dineen to be the team's new coach.

The Panthers' ability to earn a spot in the playoffs this season, let alone win the Southeast Division, came as a surprise to many observers. The reason expectations were so low wasn't the personnel, but rather the belief that it would take some time for all the new parts to mesh.

That's where Dineen came in.

"It's a very difficult task to come in and have 10, 12 new players, new bodies, and try to get everybody on the same page," first-year Winnipeg coach Claude Noel said before his team faced the Panthers on Tuesday. "I think Kevin Dineen has done a really good job here, and his staff, getting everybody going. They suffered through injuries like everyone else, but they've been able to have a really successful season. They've been consistent. They've got some bright young players and bringing in some older guys, but it's all worked out well."


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When he introduced his new coach at a press conference last June, Tallon said he knew Dineen "was the guy" as soon as he began talking to him.

Dineen's first season behind the bench in Florida only has reinforced Tallon's faith.

"I think that we all anticipated that he would do a great job," Tallon said. "He had a history as a player and as a coach in the minors. It's not easy the first year, but he's handled it with a lot of class and he's working really hard. He's been fun. It's been fun to be around him. It's been enjoyable to go to work.

"I like his passion, and his compassion, as well. He really cares. He really cares about his players and he really cares about the details and getting the guys prepared. And his hard work, as well."

Passion is a word that comes up a lot when Panthers players are asked about Dineen.

Defenseman Brian Campbell used the word, as did center Shawn Matthias. And it was the first thing that was mentioned by veteran defenseman Ed Jovanovski.

Asked to provide an example of Dineen's passion, Jovanovski said: "Just watch the bench during the game. This guy, he's always engaged in what's going on. In certain situations when you have a good scoring chance, you'll hear him from the bench, 'Bear down.' Stuff like that. He really cares for the guys and wants the guys to do well. But there's a button to press when things need to be addressed and he can switch that pretty good."

Veteran center John Madden, who joined the Panthers in early January, played against Dineen in the early 2000s, during the latter stages of Dineen's career.

He said Dineen hasn't changed much going from the ice to behind the bench.

"He was very intense," Madden said. "The same intensity he had when he was a player is the same intensity he has on the bench. And the passion he has for the game is the same as when he was a player. He really enjoys the game."

Looking back, Dineen clearly had the credentials to become a successful NHL coach.

Dineen had a long, successful career as an NHL player, where his grit and determination allowed him to maximize his talents. Part of that career was spent with the Philadelphia Flyers at a time when the coach was his father, Bill, so coaching was in his genes.

And Dineen joined the Panthers after getting some coaching experience of his own in six seasons at the helm of the Portland Pirates of the American Hockey League.

For the first three years Portland was the AHL affiliate for Anaheim, and Dineen helped develop current NHL stars Bobby Ryan, Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf. Portland then became Buffalo's affiliate, and Dineen coached the last three winners of the AHL Rookie of the Year award -- Nathan Gerbe, Tyler Ennis and Luke Adam.

"The success that he's had as a minor-league coach has given him experience," said Toronto coach Randy Carlyle, who was the coach in Anaheim when Dineen was with Portland. "He's coached for two different organizations, he has a storied hockey family background. He's been a sponge. He's learned a lot. You can see the way his teams are prepared. There's no stone unturned in the preparation for their hockey club and they're proving that to the hockey world in their play."

A two-time NHL All-Star and three-time Masterton Trophy finalist in 19 seasons as a player, Dineen says he's drawn on both his playing and coaching experience this season.

"When I first got into coaching, I was reading a ton, I was talking to a lot of other coaches, I was trying to look at it through a very specific eye," Dineen said. "After I had gotten the job for a couple of months, I was like, shame on me, I'm not relying on my experiences as a player, as well. There's a balance there. There's things that you go through that players are experiencing right now that I've been through.

"Maybe that's not the way I thought at the time, but I've been the 45-goal scorer, but I've also been the guy that's playing 7-8 minutes a night and is doing whatever he can to stay in the lineup and contribute. I guess there's a little bit of balance on both sides that you can draw from those experiences, but certainly coaching in the American League is like going to college. You're learning every day and you're dealing with relationships, whether that's players, referees, management, whatever it is. I think you get a depth of experience that helps you."

Dineen's experience as an NHL player has served him well in his relationship with his players.

From that standpoint, Dineen has earned higher marks for his ability to relate to his players than his predecessor in Florida, current New Jersey coach Pete DeBoer.

"He (Dineen) called me this summer a couple of weeks after he got the job," said Matthias. "We had a nice, long talk. When I came to (training) camp, he talked to me. It was very different from how other coaches here in the past have been. To see him on the ice the first day, too, it was intense, but it was fair and hard-working. Just from Day 1, all the players kind of responded to him. We all kind of bought into the system very quickly."

For his first season as an NHL coach, Dineen hardly could have asked for more.

When the Panthers clinched the Southeast Division title with a 4-1 victory against Carolina on Saturday, Dineen joined Mike Keenan (with the Rangers in 1993-94) and Ken Hitchcock (Dallas, 1996-97) as the only NHL coaches to turn a last-place team into a division winner in his first season as coach (Bruce Boudreau took over the Washington Capitals midway through the 2007-08 season and completed a worst-to-first run).

For Dineen, though, it goes beyond the results. Asked to sum up how he's enjoyed the experience, he explained that the relationships with his players and coaches have made for a positive experience whenever everybody is at the rink.

But it's the beginning of Dineen's answer that said it all: "Fabulous. Fabulous."

Author: Alain Poupart | NHL.com Correspondent




1 p - WSH 82 56 18 8 252 193 120
2 x - PIT 82 48 26 8 245 203 104
3 y - FLA 82 47 26 9 239 203 103
4 x - NYR 82 46 27 9 236 217 101
5 x - NYI 82 45 27 10 232 216 100
6 x - TBL 82 46 31 5 227 201 97
7 x - PHI 82 41 27 14 214 218 96
8 x - DET 82 41 30 11 211 224 93
9 BOS 82 42 31 9 240 230 93
10 CAR 82 35 31 16 198 226 86
11 OTT 82 38 35 9 236 247 85
12 NJD 82 38 36 8 184 208 84
13 MTL 82 38 38 6 221 236 82
14 BUF 82 35 36 11 201 222 81
15 CBJ 82 34 40 8 219 252 76
16 TOR 82 29 42 11 198 246 69


J. Jagr 79 27 39 23 66
J. Jokinen 81 18 42 25 60
A. Barkov 66 28 31 18 59
J. Huberdeau 76 20 39 17 59
V. Trocheck 76 25 28 15 53
R. Smith 82 25 25 19 50
A. Ekblad 78 15 21 18 36
N. Bjugstad 67 15 19 -8 34
B. Campbell 82 6 25 31 31
B. Pirri 52 11 13 -4 24
R. Luongo 35 19 6 .922 2.35
A. Montoya 12 7 3 .919 2.18

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