Colorado Avalanche: Kevin Dineen as Patrick Roy’s Replacement

Oct 9, 2014; Dallas, TX, USA; Chicago Blackhawks assistant coach Kevin Dineen during the game against the Dallas Stars at the American Airlines Center. The Blackhawks defeat the Stars 3-2 in the overtime shootout. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 9, 2014; Dallas, TX, USA; Chicago Blackhawks assistant coach Kevin Dineen during the game against the Dallas Stars at the American Airlines Center. The Blackhawks defeat the Stars 3-2 in the overtime shootout. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports /

The Colorado Avalanche need a new head coach.  Could Chicago Blackhawk’s assistant Kevin Dineen be a match?

Patrick Roy is gone and the Colorado Avalanche need a new coach.  In all honesty, I had a feeling I’d be writing this article sometime soon.  I just thought it wouldn’t happen until the end of the 2016-17 season.  

After Roy’s first season behind the bench for the Colorado Avalanche, it was hard to imagine anyone else in that role.  Perpetual success and Stanley Cup championships seemed not only within reach, but inevitable.  The feeling of hope was palpable in the fan base, and the hockey universe was back in balance knowing the Avs would be competitors again, like the old days when the Stanley Cup was always just at our fingertips.

Of course, history charts its own course and things didn’t turn out how the Colorado Avalanche would’ve wanted.  After Roy’s second season doubt began to emerge in his coaching ability.  After the third, a sense of stagnation swept in and it became clear that Roy’s time with Colorado had a quickly expiring shelf life.

There’s plenty to say about Roy’s departure.  However, I’ll try to be brief and focus on the future.  I will say that this could be the best moment of the off season and an opportunity for this franchise to take a confident step forward and find their place in the NHL.  

In his press release yesterday, GM and Executive VP Joe Sakic said that the search for a new head coach will begin immediately.  Of course, Sakic doesn’t have much of a choice with training camp coming in a matter of weeks.  In a conference call later in the day, Sakic also said that him and his staff will be looking for candidates outside the organization, rather than promoting from within.  

The search will be complicated by the fact that most of the coaching hiring was done at the beginning of the summer.  This summer saw several well known and respected coaches find new teams.  Bruce Boudreau joined the Minnesota Wild, Guy Boucher signed on with the Ottawa Senators, former Jack Adams winner Paul McLean took an assistant job in Anaheim, while former Wild head coach took an assistant job in St. Louis that will presumptively become a head coach position when Ken Hitchcock retires at the end of the season.  Undoubtedly, Sakic would’ve liked to have had the opportunity to interview these candidates had he known Roy was leaving.

As Sakic and his staff put together a list of candidates, I’d like to highlight one possibility: Chicago Blackhawks assistant coach, Kevin Dineen.

Dineen is a 19 year NHL veteran playing over 1,200 games for the Hartford Whalers, Philadelphia Flyers, Ottawa Senators and Columbus Blue Jackets.  After retiring in 2003, Dineen became head coach of the Portland Pirate of the AHL in 2005.  After six winning seasons, Dineen became head coach of the Florida Panthers in 2011-12.  Under Dineen, the Panthers made their first playoff appearance in 11 years while winning the Southeast Division title.  The Panthers finished 5th in the Southeast in  2012-13 and Dineen was eventually fired after beginning the 2013-14 season with a 3-10-4 record.

It didn’t take long for Dineen to find a new job, as in December of 2013 he was named head coach of the Canadian Women’s Olympic team.  Despite only two months preparation, under Dineen’s leadership, the Canadians won the gold medal at the Sochi Games.  Currently, Dineen serves as an assistant for the Chicago Blackhawks where he’s reportedly in charge of the powerplay.  More importantly, as an assistant, Dineen has had the opportunity to learn from Hawks head coach, Joel Quenneville, who ranks second all time in coaching wins.  

Over the summer, Dineen was connected to both Ottawa  and Calgary  as a possible head coach candidate.  In response to Roy’s resignation, The Hockey News listed him as a top 5 candidate to replace Roy.  I’m hoping he’s interested.

I’m not sure the etiquette or legality of interviewing assistant coaches – especially when they’re within the same division.  However, odds are that Dineen is hoping for another shot at a head coach position, and given his resume as a player and coach, there’s plenty of reason to think the Avs would be interested.  

When I think of the current situation, I try to focus on the needs of the franchise to move forward.  More than anything, I think the Colorado Avalanche need a coach that has the ability to get the most out of the roster and to push team leaders to be leaders.  It’s no secret that the Avs core needs to step up, and I think Dineen might be the coach to do it.  

During his time with Team Canada, Dineen took the captaincy from Hayley Wickenheiser,  Canadian Women’s all time leader in games player, goals and points. 

Although this could’ve caused tension and distraction for the team.  Dineen commented, “I didn’t do any resolving. I made a decision that I thought was best for the team. It definitely had some sting for Hayley, but all I can do at the end of it is explain to Hayley why I make my decisions. Add some transparency to what is best for the team. She gets it. And that’s why she’s a special player.  Yahoo writer, Greg Wyshynski described this decision and Dineens overall coaching by saying, “He pushed his star like he pushed his team, mentally and physically. In the end, it may have been the difference between gold and silver, as the Canadians looked more confident and refreshed in overtime.” (Wyshynski’s article, Kevin Dineen’s surreal journey from NHL disgrace to Olympic gold,  gives a great summary of Dineens coaching journey)  

I’ve always liked Dineen and thought he could be a fit for the Colorado Avalanche down the road.  Today, this description of his ability to push his team seems all the more relevant.  No matter what anyone might say about Roy as a coach, I can’t overlook the fact that the season ended with a 2-8 run while the Avs were competing for the final playoff spot, as well as with Roy calling out Matt Duchene for a genuine, albeit enthusiastic goal celebration.  For me, this was the end of my trust in Roy.  It seemed that he was unable to get the most out of his players, and then took his frustration out on Duchene, perhaps the MVP of the Avalanche last season.  

Related Story: Colorado Avalanche and Patrick Roy: Goodbye

Ultimately, the Colorado Avalanche have an extremely talented roster and they need to find a way to take a step forward.  The focus should be on the players, and not on the head coach.  With Roy behind the bench, it always felt like he was the center of attention and focal point for the team.  Today, the focus goes back on the players as the drivers of the franchise.  Now it’s up to Sakic to find someone who can meet the needs of the players and take a backseat to their success.

While the rest of the hockey world sorts out the drama of Roy’s mysterious departure, Sakic and his staff have the opportunity to chart a new and more stable course for this franchise by hiring a coach that brings experience, consistency and the ability to push his players to their best.  My hope and vote is for Dineen.  While I don’t have the expertise to assess all the potential candidates, but I feel comfortable in saying that Dineen is worth at least an interview (if the Hawks will let him, of course).