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Dineen Looking To Stay The Course

Monday, 08.27.2012 / 1:30 PM ET / Features
By Tal Pinchevsky  - NHL.com Staff Writer
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Dineen Looking To Stay The Course
Panthers head coach Kevin Dineen draws up a play for forwards Kris Versteeg and Stephen Weiss during a game at the BankAtlantic Center (Getty Images).

Kevin Dineen's first season as an NHL coach started with a lot more questions than answers. It ended with his Florida Panthers winning the Southeast Division and their first postseason appearance in a decade.

Dineen doesn't plan on taking a step back in 2012-13.

When the longtime NHL player was named Florida's coach last summer, Dineen inherited a Panthers' team that had been remade by general manager Dale Tallon. In acquiring 10 new players over the summer, Tallon turned over half the roster of a franchise that had gone an NHL-record 10 straight seasons without making the playoffs.

"In all honesty, we had a lot of guys that may have been second- or third-tier players on other hockey teams, but they came in and received a more prominent role with us and really relished it," Dineen told NHL.com. "We had talked in the summer about maybe going away for a team-building exercise. Instead of doing that, we changed our gears. We had so many new players coming in we wanted to make sure everybody got acclimated to South Florida. Staying right there was a good decision."

As it turned out, Dineen was remarkably qualified when it came to making all these disparate pieces work well together. After all, he managed a 100-percent roster overhaul as coach of the American Hockey League's Portland Pirates, who in 2008 switched from being the Anaheim Ducks' top minor-league affiliate to the Buffalo Sabres' AHL farm team. Dineen stayed on as Portland's coach, effectively trading Anaheim's entire minor-league roster for Buffalo's.

With far fewer question marks to deal with entering his second season in South Florida, Dineen leads a roster that is mostly intact from the previous season. The team's only real changes this summer were losing defenseman Jason Garrison in free agency and signing defenseman Filip Kuba and forwards Peter Mueller and George Parros. Dineen plans on enjoying that continuity, which means he won't be messing with success.

"I think right now it's going to be a much easier start for us. Our goals are not different," Dineen said. "I want to have a good, healthy training camp and move forward from there."

For the time being, that means relying on a veteran-heavy squad that might not include too many rookies this coming season. It's an interesting strategy considering the wealth of top prospects currently in the Panthers' system, including Jonathan Huberdeau, the third player chosen in the 2011 NHL Draft.

"We've got a number of real quality prospects. Historically, I've been in organizations with Anaheim and Buffalo where the road to the NHL goes through the American League. I don't think that's an unhealthy thing," Dineen said. "I think players go down there and learn how to be professionals and how to grow as players and people."

After a massive roster overhaul last season led to Florida's first playoff appearance in a decade, Dineen managed to turn a rebuilt roster into the core of a winning team. Considering that successful transformation, one can hardly blame him for sticking with what works.

Author: Tal Pinchevsky | NHL.com Staff Writer

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EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 WSH 51 38 9 4 166 114 80
2 FLA 53 31 16 6 143 118 68
3 NYR 53 30 18 5 150 135 65
4 TBL 52 29 19 4 138 123 62
5 BOS 52 28 18 6 151 137 62
6 DET 53 27 18 8 133 131 62
7 PIT 52 27 18 7 138 132 61
8 NYI 51 27 18 6 143 127 60
9 NJD 54 26 21 7 120 122 59
10 CAR 54 24 21 9 130 142 57
11 MTL 54 26 24 4 143 143 56
12 OTT 54 25 23 6 153 166 56
13 PHI 51 23 19 9 121 133 55
14 BUF 53 21 26 6 120 139 48
15 TOR 51 19 23 9 117 140 47
16 CBJ 54 21 28 5 135 168 47

STATS

2015-2016 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Jagr 50 16 21 11 37
J. Huberdeau 53 10 27 9 37
A. Barkov 43 16 19 13 35
J. Jokinen 53 10 25 11 35
V. Trocheck 53 17 16 3 33
R. Smith 53 16 15 10 31
B. Pirri 49 10 13 -5 23
A. Ekblad 49 10 12 20 22
B. Campbell 53 4 16 16 20
N. Bjugstad 38 9 8 -4 17
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
R. Luongo 23 13 5 .930 2.13
A. Montoya 8 3 1 .929 2.01

 
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