Just two seasons ago, it appeared as though head coach Kevin Dineen had ushered in a new era of Florida Panthers hockey, as he led the team to its first ever Southeast Division title and its first playoff appearance in 12 years. Things have soured significantly since then, however, as Dineen was fired on Friday, according to the Panthers' official website.
In addition to Dineen, general manager Dale Tallon also fired assistants Gord Murphy and Craig Ramsay. Although permanent replacements haven't yet been named, George Richards of the Miami Herald is reporting that Peter Horachek, who coaches Florida's AHL affiliate in San Antonio, will fill in on an interim basis.
#FlaPanthers have fired Kevin Dineen and coaching staff...John Madden and Brian Skrudland will assist San Antonio coach Peter Horachek— George Richards (@GeorgeRichards) November 8, 2013
Dineen's fall from grace was both swift and surprising as he seemed to be a perfect fit for the team when he was hired prior to the 2011-12 season. Tallon reshaped the roster significantly heading into that campaign, but Dineen was able to get the team to jell together successfully.
The Panthers fell to the New Jersey Devils in the first round of the playoffs, but they pushed the eventual Eastern Conference champions to a decisive Game 7.
Dineen was unable to build on that magical year in the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season, as the Panthers finished with a league-worst 36 points. Some chalked that up to a small sample size, but with just 10 points through 16 games this season, Tallon thought it was time to make a move.
“After 16 games it was clear that our team needed a change in philosophy and direction,” said 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.”
Although Tallon is taking full responsibility for the firings, it seems as though outside pressure may have played a role. New York businessman Vincent Viola bought the team in September, and he had no attachment to Dineen or his staff.
Those who are successful in the business world often have little patience when it comes to failure, and it is clear that the Panthers were heading in the wrong direction. It remains to be seen if this coaching change will alter the team's course, but it seems as though Viola is already making his mark on the franchise.
Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter