After the news that the Florida Panthers fired head coach Kevin Dineen and assistants Gord Murphy and Craig Ramsay and replaced them with interim head coach Peter Horachek and assistants Brian Skrudland, and John Madden, Panthers GM Dale Tallon held a phone conference to answer some questions from the media. Here are some quotes from that conference:
“After 16 games it was clear that we needed a change in our message and philosophy”
“Its my responsibility to turn things around and get our team to play at its maximum potential”
“Vinnie Viola demands excellence at every level in the organization and is committed to winning and putting a winning product on the ice for our fans.”
“Our better players have to start playing better or we will get better players”
“We are all responsible for this record”
“I’ve been stewing on this for a long times, its never easy, we don’t make rash decisions”
On Dineen’s reaction to the news of his firing:
“He was unhappy and I don’t blame him. He’s a fiery guy he’s a fiery competitor and a very emotional coach and I didn’t blame him for being emotional and upset. I didn’t expect anything less form him. He’s a class guy he’s a hard working guy and its one of the toughest decisions I’ve ever had to make.
On Dineen being offered a chance to stay with the organization:
“He’ll have every opportunity to sit back and evaluate and he’s been offered an opportunity to stay with our organization”
On the players and whats in store for the team:
“The first of many changes that were making”
“Its easier to fire a coach than it is to fire 23 players”
“Were on the phone constantly and were going to make changes as we go we want people that want to be Panthers and if they don’t want to be then we will accommodate them”
“Right now I’m dissatisfied with the effort form most of the guys and we need to be better”
“We’re trying extremely hard everyday, numerous phone calls with numerous teams and hopefully something will hit in the near future.”
You can hear the full conference here.
Judging from Tallon’s quotes and his demeanor he is obviously not happy, but you do not need me to tell you that. The biggest thing I took away from his comments is how Tallon emphasized that the players are just as much to blame as the coach. Tallon threw down the gauntlet for the Panthers. Plain and simple, if you do not want to be here, if you do not give your full effort every night, then you will be moved. And we can be sure that we will see some moves in the near future.
I am fascinated to see how the Panthers respond to their new coach and the threat of being traded that will essentially hang over every player not named Huberdeau or Barkov for the rest of the season.
Open Letter From Viola
The Panthers new owners are not sitting silently as all this plays out as Vinnie Viola issued an open letter to the fans on the Panthers website. Below are some of the highlights and you can read the full letter here.
“Our goals are simple: to win and to build a team that our fans can be proud of. After 16 games it is clear that we have not lived up to those expectations. ”
“With 66 games remaining this season our expectations remain the same. We expect a team that plays hard, that sacrifices for each other, that gives everything they have for our fans and supporters, and a team that wins hockey games. ”
“By the end of this season we expect to be competing for a place in the Stanley Cup Playoffs and we expect to have taken a significant step toward achieving the goals and objectives we have set for this franchise.”
After taking in the comments from Viola and Tallon and reading opinions from around the league, I think the smartest reaction to the whole situation came from ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun.
LeBrun’s point is this: everyone expected the Panthers to be bad this year, it is widely agreed that the best course of action for the team is to take a long-term approach, get another high draft pick, build around Barkov and Huberdeau and wait for the young talent to progress through the system. So why is a 3-9-4 start a fireable offense? Because the Panthers can no longer sell their fan base on ‘the future’. At some point during the last decade or so of futility, fans stopped buying the ‘future’ sales pitch.
Even if fans aren’t buying the ‘be bad for a while and wait for the future plan’ it is still probably the best course of action for the Panthers right now. So Tallon and Viola and the whole organization are at a tough juncture where they have to build the team for the future while also selling the fans on winning. As LeBrun put it in his piece, “placating both the short-term and long-term objectives because of a need to sell tickets now while you build for the future.”
Kevin Dineen is unfortunately the casualty of those dueling ideals. Personally, I do not know if Kevin Dineen is a good or bad coach. From the outside its impossible to tell. I like how Dineen talks to the media and I like his personality and hockey philosophy. I was not crazy about his line juggling and as Tallon said something about his message did not seem to be getting through to his players. Is that a problem with the coach or a problem with the players? I do not know. Is there even such a thing as ‘it being a problem with the players’? Couldn’t you argue that a good coach gets his message to his players regardless of who the players are and the excuse of ‘the players just were not responding to him’ is the excuse of a bad coach? Again I do not know.
I have played enough hockey with enough good and bad coaches to know that there is so much that goes on between players and their coach that can only be understood if you are in the locker room, an active participant in the relationship. So I do not think it is fair to label Dineen as a good coach or a bad coach. What we can say is, things were not working out and the Panthers felt like a change had to be made. There are a lot more factors in play behind the decision to let Dineen go than just his prowess as an NHL head coach.
Do the Panthers really think that replacing Dineen with Horachek will magically turn them into a playoff contender? Or was the move an attempt to placate a disgruntled fan base. A way of saying, “Hey look! We expect to win! If we are not winning heads will roll because that is how dedicated we are to winning! Come buy tickets to our games….no seriously please come out and support our team, we’re begging you…because look how dedicated we are to winning…..we fired our head coach….hey! is anyone even listening to me right now?” Or something along those lines.
What do you think? Are you happy with the decision? Sad to see Dineen go? Share your thoughts in the comments section below and follow The Rat Trick on Facebook and Twitter @FansidedTheRat for all the latest.