Maine Hockey Journal

It’s the end of an era for the Pirates

Portland, ME – This was a situation the Pirates should have never found themselves in the first place. They really didn’t talk about it, but they knew what was at stake (losing the Eastern Conference Finals) and now they preparing to head home for the summer and what might lie ahead in the future.

For the Pirates, it’s expected that they will usher in a new NHL affiliate in the next couple of weeks with the anticipation of the Anaheim Ducks leaving for Des Moines, Iowa.

“Those are the things that you trust your organization to do what’s best for your players to help in (their) development and I know over the next week or two they’ll make the best decision they can for their group of players and us as a coaching staff at this level,” said Pirates’ coach Kevin Dineen.

As for Dineen’s future, he’s just going to take each day one at a time. With NHL head coaching jobs available in Ottawa, Toronto, Atlanta, San Jose and Florida and Dineen’s name attached to all of them in one way or another, he’s not taking anything for granted.

“I’m going to take a couple more days to take care of things around here and then there’s that personal time were you have to do a little evaluating on you own future and right now we’re still in that evaluation stage.”

Dineen still under contract til July 1 has some unfinished business to take care in Portland before he’ll turn his focus to his future, which will include a job offer from the Anaheim Ducks.

Ducks’ General Manager Brian Burke has offered Dineen a chance to move up in the organization, meaning the future Ducks farm club will have a new head coach in place for next year.

“It’s something that you get excited about when (Burke and staff) feel you’ve done a good enough job where (Anaheim) would offer for you to move forward in the organization,” said Dineen.

“We’ll see how it goes from there… I’m very fortunate that Anaheim has offered me a role to move forward in their future,” Dineen said. “We’ll evaluate that, I signed a three-year deal and now we’ll move forward from there.”

A new coaching staff will not be the Ducks only off-season decision that will need to be made. Several key players are scheduled to become free agents and Anaheim will need to either resign them or risk losing them to another NHL team or Europe.

For several players such as Bruno St. Jacques, Geoff Peters and Tyler Bouck, Europe is seen as a viable option at this stage of their career.

“I’m looking to explore my option and maybe head to Europe,” said Peters. “I’m 30 years old, there’s (NHL) teams looking for veterans and I’m looking forward to starting fresh. It’s been great being here (in Portland), but three years here and really the only year here I was healthy was two years ago.”

Peters hearing the rumors around town that Buffalo is the likely team headed to Portland said that he wouldn’t mind suiting up with his younger brother (Andrew), who plays for Buffalo, at some point.

“I don’t know if that’s been talked about or not, if that’s an option that’s great,” he said.

“Obviously the ultimate goal would be to lace them up with Andrew on the same line. I mean we’d kill people. We’d be a wrecking ball that’s for sure. I’d just run people over people then he’d come over to protect me. I’d think we’d just play short handed (to save the official the trouble of calling a penalty). We wouldn’t score many goals, but we’d beat the snot out of people,” Peters quipped while laughing.

Another player looking to make the jump over the pond is Bruno St. Jacques. After spending the last 10 years in the minors, he felt it was time to make a change to protect his future.

“Europe is a strong option for me, but I am going to see what Anaheim has to say first. I have another one (baby) on the way and I need to do what’s best for my future,” said St. Jacques.

Besides the unrestricted free agents, Anaheim will need to get several restricted players under contract for next season, including Andrew Ebbett who was vital to the Pirates success during the season and playoffs.

“We’ll be in talks with Anaheim in the next couple of weeks so hopefully we can work something out and keep going (with Anaheim),” said Ebbett. “I had a lot of fun with this organization and they’ve treated me well all year. I’ve had two years pro under my belt and I want to prove that I can go up to that next level. I want to stick up there for more than three games.”

Drew Miller is in the same situation.

“I signed a two-year deal so I’m done after this one,” said Miller. “I’ve got to negotiate this summer and I’d love to come back to Anaheim, they’ve been good to me and hopfully we’ll get a deal done, but we’ll see what happens.”

Once September rolls around, it will be a completely fresh faces and it will take time for everybody to get used to the adjustment of a new NHL organization wearing the red and black of the Portland Pirates, but let’s remember one player who spent the last three years in Portland without little fanfare. When I was in the locker room on most nights after a game or after practice, he sat in the corner and did his thing. He was modest, soft-spoken and especially polite when I spoke to him, but when he was on the ice he was Dino’s favorite player. Maybe because he played the game like Dineen – all out, take no prisoners.

Have you been able to guess who I’m talking about yet?

That’s right, the one and only Simon Ferguson. He’s been here since day one and as I said, he did his job with out little fanfare. He was quiet as a mouse in the locker room, never saying very much when I spoke to him, but on ice, he played the game to the fullest.

This time when I spoke to Ferguson, he’s words were once again few and far between, but they hit home of all who spent time watching the Portland Pirates over the last three seasons.

“It’s been great, the cities been great, and fans been great,” he said. “It’s a nice place to play, I’m sure there are a lot of worse cities you can be in the AHL, so we’re pretty lucky to have played here.”

(Over the next couple of weeks, I will be working on a new feature and compiling moments in franchise history of the Pirates… I hope to be able to have a list of the top-10 moments, which I’ll post one every other week until the start of the new season.)

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