Head coach Kevin Dineen won’t get a chance to help the Florida Panthers end their seven-game losing streak.
The NHL team on Friday announced the firing of Dineen and his assistants Gord Murphy and Craig Ramsay, just hours after the Panthers dropped a 4-1 decision to Boston on Thursday night.
“After 16 games it was clear that our team needed a change in philosophy and direction,” Florida general manager Dale Tallon said in a statement released by the Panthers.
“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 just didn't have a lot of consistency with our lines or special-teams units.' - Panthers winger Brad Boyes
Peter Horachek has been named interim head coach, moving up from his position as bench boss of the team's American Hockey League affiliate in San Antonio. Former NHL players Brian Skrudland and John Madden have been named assistants.
Tallon said Dineen worked hard, but that the coaching staff's message was not getting through to players, and for that, he blamed those in the dressing room.
Winger Brad Boyes, whom the Panthers signed to a one-year free-agent contract in the off-season, told CBCSports.ca in a text message that Dineen made a lot of day-to-day changes during the current losing streak.
"We just didn't have a lot of consistency with our lines or special-teams units," said Boyes, who was a healthy scratch Thursday despite leading the team in goals with five.
"Team morale was OK. [It's a] good group [of players] here. Sometimes just a fresh voice can change things around."
"It's embarrassing,"added Boyes's teammate, forward Shawn Matthias. "I can't remember the last time we won. There are no positives right now."
Florida has lost 10 of its past 11 games and is on its longest skid (0-3-4) since a 10-game slide in April 2011.
A number of the Panthers' highest paid players have been unproductive so far this season, with defenceman Brian Campbell and forward Tomas Kopecky (earning $10.1 million US between them) having to score a goal. Top-line forwards Tomas Fleischmann and Kris Versteeg ($8.9 million combined) have five goals between them.
"Our better players have to start playing better or we will get better players," said Tallon, who has been actively trying to reshape Florida's roster through trades in recent weeks, to no avail.
Panthers owner Vinnie Viola, who bought the club in late September, wrote a letter to fans saying the change in direction was "absolutely necessary."
"With 66 games remaining this season our expectations remain the same," Viola wrote. "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."
Dineen, who has been offered a chance to stay with the Panthers organization, was in the final year of his contract, as was Murphy and Ramsay. Murphy was on the staff of Dineen's predecessor, Peter DeBoer, while Tallon brought Ramsay aboard shortly after he hired Dineen.
Skrudland, 50, played four seasons in Florida in the 1990s and spent the last four years as the club's director of player development. Fellow centre Madden, 40, appeared in 31 games with Florida in the 2011-12 campaign.
Goalie coach Robb Tallas, video coach Jason Cipolla and conditioning coach Craig Slaunwhite will remain on the Panthers' staff.
Dineen compiled a 56-62-28 record in parts of three seasons, leading the Panthers to the 2012 Southeast Division title.
He is the second NHL head coach to lose his job this season following Peter Laviolette’s departure in Philadelphia after the Flyers lost three in a row to start the season.
Change of heart
Dineen's job appeared safe, at least for the short-term, following Tuesday's 4-3 overtime loss to Edmonton when Tallon told reporters the team would not be making a coaching change at that time.
Prior to joining the Panthers in June 2011, Dineen spent the previous six seasons as head coach of the AHL's Portland Pirates. He went 266-155-59 and led the Pirates to the playoffs in five of his six seasons.
'He is a focused, determined and demanding coach who has experienced great success at all levels of competition.' - Panthers GM Dale Tallon on interim coach Peter Horacek
Horacek was an assistant coach with the Nashville Predators from 2003-2013 before San Antonio hired him this past summer.
Tallon, in a news release, called him "a bright hockey mind who brings to our club a wealth of coaching knowledge.
"He is a focused, determined and demanding coach who has experienced great success at all levels of competition. Both Brian [Skrudland] and John [Madden] are proven winners who won multiple Stanley Cups and are individuals that our players know very well.
"With these additions," continued Tallon, "we are confident that we have a staff that will work tirelessly to bring continued success to our organization."
Florida will play seven of its next eight games on the road, starting in Ottawa on Saturday (2 p.m. ET). The Panthers have one win in seven starts this season (1-5-1) away from home.