Source: USA TODAY
With the Florida Panthers mired in a seven-game losing streak, general manager Dale Tallon fired coach Kevin Dineen and assistants Gord Murphy and Craig Ramsay – and promised more changes.
“We’re 3-9-4,” he said on a conference call on Friday. “That’s unacceptable.”
Tallon promoted Peter Horachek, 53, from San Antonio of the American Hockey League to be interim coach and named former Panthers players Brian Skrudland and John Madden as assistant coaches. He said Horachek was free to add another assistant.
But Tallon made clear that he didn’t blame just the coaching staff.
“Our better players have to start playing better or we will get better players,” he said.
One player move was made on Friday when TSN reported that defenseman Ryan Whitney was placed on waivers.
Signed late in training camp, Whitney was a healthy scratch 10 times and had no points and a minus 7 rating in six games.
Tallon said he had been considering the coaching change for a while and said Thursday’s 4-1 loss to the Boston Bruins was “one of many” final straws.
The Panthers won the 2011-12 Southeast Division title under Dineen but dropped to last in the league in 2012-13.
Tallon broke the news to Dineen on Friday morning.
“He was unhappy and I don’t blame him,” Tallon said. “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 from him.
“He’s a class guy. He’s a hard-working guy and it was one of the toughest decisions I ever had to make.”
Tallon pointed that out it was easier to fire a coach than 23 players, but he has been on the phone “with numerous teams” discussing trades.
“We want people who want to be Panthers and if they don’t want to be Panthers, we’ll accommodate them,” he said. “I’m dissatisfied with the effort from most of the guys and they need to be better.”
Horachek was in his first season at San Antonio after success in the Nashville Predators organization. He won the International Hockey League title in 2001 with the Orlando Solar Bears. Essentially, he’ll be auditioning for the Panthers’ job full-time the rest of the year.
“Peter has had success at every level he’s coached at,” Tallon said. “He’s going to come in and hopefully turn this thing around.”
Skrudland, the team’s director of player development, and Madden, a pro scout, had played for the Panthers. Skrudland was the team’s original captain.
“Brian knows our young players,” Tallon said. “He’s worked close with them the last three or four years. And John Madden has won three Cups and is a contemporary of some of these players, so he’ll be good with the veteran guys. And he comes from some teams that had great systems and he’s a winner as well. He’ll bring a lot of energy and enthusiasm to our young players as well.”
Tallon said he thought that Dineen’s message was no longer getting through.
“If the players don’t respond to this, well, they won’t be Panthers for very long,” he said.