The Buffalo Sabres felt they caught a break last year when no NHL team decided to hire Kevin Dineen. It meant they had him around to coach their minor-leaguers for one more season.
It appears last season was the last one.
The Florida Panthers have called a news conference for Wednesday afternoon, at which time they are expected to name Dineen as their head coach. It will be the first NHL job for Dineen, who has coached the Portland Pirates for six seasons, including the past three as the Sabres’ affiliate.
Dineen, 47, was a finalist last year for the Columbus Blue Jackets job that went to Scott Arniel. The Sabres have been prepared to lose Dineen’s services for some time.
"He’s ready for the National Hockey League as a head coach," Sabres General Manager Darcy Regier told the Maine Hockey Journal last month. "That’s certainly how I feel. Whether someone else recognizes that and takes advantage of it, I don’t know. If he gets the opportunity, on one hand we’d really miss him. On the other hand, I’d only wish him the best."
Dineen led the Pirates to the American Hockey League’s Atlantic Division title this season, piling up a 47-24-9 record. The Sabres’ minor-leaguers made the playoffs all three seasons under Dineen and assistant coach Eric Weinrich.
"I can’t say enough about the job that Kevin, Eric and the staff do here, both in preparing the players to play on the short-term basis and developing them on the long term," Regier said.
The Sabres may have been in the market for a new minor-league coach regardless of the Panthers’ decision. The Sabres have been in negotiations to purchase the Rochester Americans and switch their affiliate from Portland. Dineen is a big fan of Maine and likely would not have moved.
The only way he was departing was for an NHL job, and the Panthers have given it to him.