After seven straight losses, Panthers fire Kevin Dineen

The Florida Panthers fired coach Kevin Dineen on Friday, replacing him with interim head coach Peter Horachek, who was previously serving as bench boss for the San Antonio Rampage, the Panthers’ American Hockey League affiliate.

The move came the morning after a 4-1 loss to the Boston Bruins on Thursday night. The defeat extended Florida’s winless streak to seven games. The Panthers have not registered a win since they triumphed over the Minnesota Wild, 2-1, on Oct. 19.

General manager Dale Tallon says the loss was not necessarily the final straw in the decision to fire Dineen. It was something he had been “stewing on for a long time.”

“We don’t make rash decisions,” Tallon said. “We make decisions for the future of our franchise.”

Tallon could no longer sit idle and watch the Panthers sink in the standings.

“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,” Tallon said.

Also let go were assistants Craig Ramsay and Gord Murphy. The pair will be replaced by former Panthers players Brian Skrudland and John Madden.

The move was a joint decision between the team’s ownership and hockey operations staff.

Horachek was informed of his new role Thursday night. Dineen and his staff were informed Friday morning.

Beyond the removal of Dineen, Tallon criticized his squad as underperforming. He was to address the team later Friday morning. And the Panthers GM noted further moves involving the team’s roster could be forthcoming. 

“This is just the beginning of our changes that need to be made,” Tallon said. “If players don’t respond to this, they won’t be Panthers pretty long.

“It’s easier to fire a coach than fire 23 players,” he added. “We’re on the phone constantly and we’re going to make changes as we go.”

At 3-9-4, the Panthers sit sixth in the Atlantic Division, 10 points out of a top 3 spot. They trail eighth-place Montreal by seven points in the wild-card race. Tallon said he has not given up on Florida getting back into the playoff race.

“Every year we go to training camp, we want to make the playoffs,” Tallon said.

Horachek becomes the 12th head coach in franchise history. He previously spent nine seasons with the Nashville Predators, with his last two years in the role of associate head coach.

Beyond this season with the Rampage, Horachek’s coaching experience at the minor-league level includes a season with the American Hockey League’s Milwaukee Admirals, the ECHL’s Trenton Titans and the International Hockey League’s Orlando Solar Bears.

“He’s a no-nonsense guy and a good communicator,” Tallon said of Horachek. We’ll give him every opportunity to show his wares.”

Skrudland, the franchise’s first captain, previously served as the director of player development. Madden, a former Selke Trophy winner as the league’s top defensive forward, joined Florida as a pro scout this season.

“Brian’s been working with our young guys,” Tallon said. “He’s worked close with them the last 3-4 years. John Madden has won three Cups. He’s a contemporary of some of these guys.”

Dineen compiled a 56-62-8 record in a little more than two years as Panthers head coach. Florida captured a Southeast Division title in his first season, but finished last in the NHL during last year’s lockout-shortened season.

The Panthers offered Dineen an opportunity to remain with the franchise in another capacity. Tallon noted Friday was an emotional morning for the former player, and expected he would take time to make a decision.

“I don’t blame him,” Tallon said. “He’s a fiery guy. A fiery competitor. I didn’t blame him for being emotional.”

Follow Erin Brown on Twitter @rinkside.