Maine Hockey Journal

Sabres hire Dineen to coach Pirates

Portland, ME – Maybe it was the lobster or the ocean views, but as reported first on MVN.com, the Portland Pirates will have a familiar look behind the bench this season as the Buffalo Sabres have hired Kevin Dineen as their new head coach for their minor league affiliate in Portland for at least the next two year’s.

Back in June, the Sabres believe they had their coach for the Pirates, but Randy Cunneyworth, who coached the Sabres’ affiliate in Rochester, NY for the last eight seasons, was hired by the Atlanta Thrashers on July 24, leaving the Sabres looking for a new man to guide their prospects.

Sabres GM Darcy Regier only interviewed one candidate for the position.

“I made that decision that day (to hire Dineen),” said Sabres GM Darcy Regier. “I admittedly had done a lot of background (checking) on Kevin and had a lot of things offered to me on his behalf by people that have worked with him.”

“Speaking to people like Al Coates and Bob Murray, they were very understanding to Kevin’s family situation and did not want to lose him and for obvious reason why we didn’t want to lose Randy Cunneyworth, but recognized that this was something important to Kevin and we benefit tremendously by this as an organization.”

Dineen, a 19-year NHL veteran, had been the head coach of Pirates for the last three seasons when they were affiliated with the Anaheim Ducks, however, when Anaheim decided to move their AHL affiliate to Des Moines, Iowa, Dineen wasn’t so sure he was willing to make the move.

“Portland has a special touch on us and it would have been a hard thing to get us out of Maine and if things didn’t work out for us here in Maine,” said Dineen. “I might have had to fly solo to Des Moines (Anaheim’s new AHL affiliate) for a while. The family would have stayed here (in Portland) for a stretch and it would have been a slower transition.”

“It couldn’t have worked out any better.”

Dineen had applied for several NHL coaching vacancies and considered a top candidate for one of the assistant coaching openings with the San Jose Sharks, but they went to Todd Richards and former Ducks scout Trent Yawney.

It was at that point Dineen shifted his focus back to the AHL weighed the decision on going to Des Moines or trying to land the job in Portland. With Portland being his top choice, Dineen and Regier met for five hours in Syracuse, NY where Dineen was offered the job a short time later.

The first priority for Dineen is going to be to assemble his staff, in which, the Sabres have given him a great amount of latitude in doing. Dineen hopes to have his staff complete in a week to 10 days and wouldn’t rule any candidate for the assistant’s job as possibilities include former Pirate Eric Weinrich and former Pirates assistant coach Gord Dineen.

Dineen did say Gord will interview with Anaheim for the Iowa position, but Portland is an option.

For the Pirates, it gives them a link from what had been a very successful tenure with the Anaheim Ducks and new parent club the Buffalo Sabres. During Dineen time in Portland, he was 135-76-13-16, guiding the Pirates to the Eastern Conference Finals two of the last three seasons.

Notes: Talking with Dineen after the press conference, he spoke to Buffalo filling the remaining holes and one possibility perhaps to re-join the Pirates is former captain Tyler Bouck. Dineen said he hopes to get the contract finalized in the next few days.

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