Panthers fire coach Dineen, hire Horachek

Kevin Dineen.

The Florida Panthers fired head coach Kevin Dineen and his assistants, general manager Dale Tallon announced Friday morning.

Assistant coaches Gord Murphy and Craig Ramsay were also relieved of their duties.

The decision comes after the 3-9-4 Panthers lost their seventh consecutive game Thursday night to the Boston Bruins.

“After 16 games it was clear that our team needed a change in philosophy and direction,” Tallon said via statement. “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 thank Kevin, Gord and Craig for their hard work and dedication to our organization and the professionalism that they displayed throughout their tenure.”

Dineen was hired by the Panthers in the summer of 2011 and leaves with a 56-62-28 record.

He will be replaced in the interim by 53-year-old Peter Horachek, a former assistant coach of the Nashville Predators turned bench boss for the American Hockey League’s San Antonio Rampage.

Brian Skrudland and John Madden will join as Horachek’s assistant coaches.

“Peter is a bright hockey mind who brings to our club a wealth of coaching knowledge,” Tallon said in a statement. “He is a focused, determined and demanding coach who has experienced great success at all levels of competition. Both Brian and John are proven winners who won multiple Stanley Cups and are individuals that our players know very well. With these additions, we are confident that we have a staff that will work tirelessly to bring continued success to our organization.”

Goaltending coach Robb Tallas, video coach Jason Cipolla and strength and conditioning coach Craig Slaunwhite will remain on the Panthers’ staff.

“We’ve played 10 good games and five really crappy games,” Tallon told Sportsnet The Fan 590 Thursday prior to the game in Boston. “We’re a work in progress.”

Only Philadelphia, which already made a coaching change this season, and Buffalo have fewer points in the Eastern Conference than Florida.

“Our better players are not performing, and I don’t understand why,” Tallon said. “There’s no excuse. That’s what’s really frustrating.”

“It’s embarrassing,” Panthers forward Shawn Matthias said after the loss in Boston on Thursday night. “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.

“He’s been offered an opportunity to stay with our organization,” Tallon said of Dineen.

Dineen comes from a storied hockey family — his father Bill Dineen played and coached in the NHL, and his brothers Gord and Peter also were NHL players. Kevin Dineen also played in the NHL, scoring 355 goals in parts of 19 seasons with the Hartford/Carolina franchise, Philadelphia, Ottawa and Columbus. The Florida job was his first as an NHL head coach.

It’s already been an eventful year for the Panthers, who made a splashy signing when adding goaltender Tim Thomas, and also have gone through an ownership change with Vincent Viola paying $250 million to buy the franchise in September.

Viola demands excellence, Tallon said, and he’s clearly not getting it yet.

“If players don’t respond to this, they won’t be Panthers for very long,” Tallon said.

(with files from AP)

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