Maine Hockey Journal

With contract in hand Dineen gets down to work on Pirates roster

It was a mix of relief, excitement and the reality that Kevin Dineen can now focus on the future of the Portland Pirates.

The Buffalo Sabres gave Dineen, along with Eric Weinrich, a two-year contract extension on Thursday, and now both men can apply their energy toward getting the Pirates on-ice house in order before the start of the season.

“It’s obviously a good fit for me,” Dineen said. “It’s a continuation of what we’ve done the last five years (in Portland) and we have some unfinished business that we need to address.”

Dineen said the contract had been finished for a couple weeks after he’d finished his process of exploring his options to become a head coach in the NHL. Dineen was a front-runner for the head coaching position in Columbus, but after a pair of interviews, they ultimately decided on going another direction with Scott Arniel.

“I knew when things didn’t work out for me and I went through my (interviews) as far as other opportunities,” said Dineen, “I always expressed to (Sabres General Manager) Darcy (Regier) that one of my first hopes was to come back to continue coaching for him (in Portland) and I think there was a fit there.”

“I certainly had a strong interest in coming back to Portland and (Regier) wanted to have me back.”

Dineen is entering his sixth season with the Pirates after joining the team in 2005 when he was hired by former Anaheim Ducks GM Brian Burke to coach their AHL affiliate in Portland. During his first three years, he guided the Pirates to the Eastern Conference Finals and was awarded the Louis A.R. Pieri Memorial Award as the AHL’s outstanding coach in 2005-06.

When the Ducks left for Des Moines, Iowa, Regier took notice hiring Dineen to develop Buffalo Sabres prospects.

“They have done an excellent job in respect to our young players and their development within the organization,” said Regier in a statement. “As we continue to grow our young prospects, we are confident their success in the National Hockey League can be attributed to their time spent with such quality individuals that we have in place in Portland.”

In five years behind the bench for Portland, he leads the franchise in games played (400), wins (219) and winning percentage (.619).

With Dineen returning to Portland for another season, there was a trickled down effect to his family, who Dineen has always put an emphasis into when making decisions in the past. Dineen had been a candidate for several jobs in the NHL, but opted to stay in Portland citing family reasons.

“For me, the family part is exciting and they’re all extremely thrilled,” he said. “We’ve made some decision in past years that were based on what maybe was best for us as a group. Saying that, I grew up in a hockey family and (they’ve) grown up in a hockey family, so they know there is some transition that’s involved and they were ready to accept that.”

“At the end of the day when they found out we were going to stay, that was very exciting for my (family).”

Now that the contract is out of the way, Dineen has turned his focus to the getting the Pirates roster set for the upcoming season – not that he wasn’t working on that with the Sabres anyway.

Dineen, while happy with the players that have been signed, admitted that there were still holes that needed to be filled in the Pirates lineup, however, he didn’t view that as an issue despite the fact that camp opens in about a month.

He even hinted to possibility of several former players making a return to Portland.

“There are certainly some holes that we need to address,” Dineen said. “The good thing is we are being patient waiting to find what we are looking for. We’ll continue to do that. It’s engaging and fun to be a part of that process. I really enjoy that (experience) and appreciate (being part of the process).”

“I’m excited,” he added. “Like last year, there are things that still need to fall into place here, that’s fairly obvious specifically (players like) Cowan, Larsen and DiPenta. Those final decisions haven’t been made yet. There is a level of patience that is on-going. Larsen and McCormick were late signings (last season) and those are the type of guys that you hope are still available. If you look at the list, there are a lot of quality individuals still out there.”

Also joining Dineen is the return of Eric Weinrich, who is entering his third year as assistant coach of the Pirates.

With Weinrich staying on board, he will continue to give the coaching staff a balance of offense and defense and provide a different viewpoint to Dineen’s offensive approach.

“When I look at the game I think about the game from an offensive standpoint,” Dineen said. “So I think we are a good mix for each other. He played the game, and looks at it from a different perspective.”

“We really provide each other a nice balance with our strong points.”

Weinrich signed with Portland as an assistant coach for part of the 2006-“07 season before getting the itch to return to ice where he played 88 games (3g, 19a) on defense over two seasons before retiring and joining the Sabres organization as an assistant coach.

“I expressed to Darcy (Regier) that I really enjoyed being part of the organization and was hoping that they would consider resigning me and he said they would be happy to have me back,” Weinrich said in a statement. “I’ve been associated with Kevin in one way or another for the past four seasons and I look forward to working with him again and learning all I can from his experience and leadership of the team.”

NOTES: Dineen will be in Hartford, Conn. this weekend where he will be taking part in the Whalers Reunion and Fan Fest. The festival was arranged by former Hartford Whalers owner Howard Baldwin as part of his attempt in resurrecting the Hartford as a potential NHL city in the future.

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