The Florida Panthers have fired Kevin Dineen from his head coaching position and replaced him with interim coach Peter Horachek for the time being. While a move was clearly needed in Florida, don’t expect the shake up to have many visible on-ice results for the Panthers in the coming months.
If Horachek was just going to come in and build off of what Dineen had been doing with the team, then maybe this squad could turn things around on a 3-9-4 season. That doesn’t seem to be the case though. At least not based on what General Manager Dale Tallon told NHL.com immediately after the firings:
After 16 games it was clear that our team needed a change in philosophy and direction. 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.
The key phrase in that statement is “a change in philosophy and direction.” Teams packed to the brim with veterans struggle to learn new systems laid out by coaches in the middle of a season. Look at the Philadelphia Flyers, who are still having a hard time winning games after Craig Berube stepped in and installed a more offensive, skating-based system.
Horachek has a wealth of experience to pull from. That isn’t the problem. He was an assistant coach with the Nashville Predators for nine years before taking over Florida’s AHL team in San Antonio.
The hang up will be for the young kids currently suiting up for the Panthers. Guys like Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov will have to unlearn everything that Dineen has been grinding into their heads this season (and last season as well, in Huberdeau’s case). Being a young player in the NHL is tough enough.
Having your coach pulled out from under you 16 games into the season just makes things tougher. Again, the Panthers needed to make a change of some sort but it’s tough to feel like this is anything more than a “shake things up” move by Tallon. Unfortunately, new coaches tend to make matters worse when it comes to young players before things improve.
The team now has to learn a new system on the fly while trying to climb out of the league’s basement. Could Tallon has gone out and traded for a goalie that could actually stop pucks? Sure, but that’s a tougher move to make than just cutting your coach loose.
Florida’s season has gone off the rails entirely, and don’t expect a change behind the bench to yield positive results in the immediate future. If anything, look for the Panthers to somehow manage to be worse before turning things around eventually.