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CHANGE IN FLORIDA: Kevin Dineen Out, Peter Horachek

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

BOSTON -- The Panthers decided to fire coach Kevin Dineen late Thursday night and made the move official early Friday morning.

Dineen was told of his fate in a morning meeting with general manager Dale Tallon at the team hotel in Ottawa. Assistant coaches Gord Murphy and Craig Ramsay were also fired.

"He was unhappy and I don't blame him,'' Tallon said of his meeting with Dineen.

"He's a fiery guy and a fiery competitor and an emotional coach and I don't blame him for being upset. I didn't expect anything less from him. He's a class guy, hard working guy.

"It's one of the toughest decisions I've ever had to make.

Tallon informed new coach Peter Horachek of his promotion not long after Florida's 4-1 loss at Boston on Thursday night. Horachek, who spent a decade as an assistant at Nashville, had been coaching Florida's minor league team in San Antonio.

The Panthers have lost seven straight, longest since the final weeks of Pete DeBoer's time behind the bench at the end of the 2010-11 season.

DeBoer was fired the day after that season ended and Dineen was hired a few months later.

Horachek, the 20th coach in the franchise's 20th anniversary season, will work on an interim basis. If things go well, he could get the gig full-time.

Original Florida captain Brian Skrudland -- who had been serving as the team's director of player development -- and former Panthers center John Madden (2011-12) replace Murphy and Ramsay.

Madden was in his first year as a pro scout for the Panthers and was in Nashville with the team a few weeks back to work with the centers.

Horachek is expected to lead Florida's practice in Ottawa Friday afternoon and will make his NHL head coaching debut Saturday at 2 p.m. when the Panthers -- winless in their past seven -- take on the host Senators.

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

"Kevin, Gord and Craig worked very hard. But for some reason the message was not getting through,'' Tallon said.

"I thank them for their hard work and professionalism. They displayed that on a daily basis. We're all responsible for this record. This marks the first change to start turning this franchise around and become a winning organization.

Dineen, who celebrated his 50th birthday just last week, went 56-63-38 in his two-plus seasons with the Panthers. In his first year, Dineen led Florida to its first Southeast Division title in franchise history and first playoff berth in 12 years.

Florida's second season under Dineen was marred by lockout-shortened and injury-riddled campaign. Florida finished last in the entire league for the first time ever.

This year got off to a rousing start with wins in the season-opener Oct. 3 at Dallas and in the home opener Oct. 11 against Pittsburgh. But Florida has only won one other time -- and that shootout win over Minnesota on Oct. 19 will go down as Dineen's final victory as head coach of the Panthers.

"You hate to see these guys go,'' alternate captain Brian Campbell said Friday afternoon.

In one of his final statements as coach of the Panthers following Thursday's loss in Boston, Dineen said "tomorrow will be a big decision-making day for us."

Dineen was talking specifically about the potential return of goalie Tim Thomas. Apparently the decision to fire him had already been made.

"This is the first of many changes that we're making,'' Tallon said. "There's he old saying: It's easier to fire the coach than 23 players. We're on the phone constantly and we'll make changes as we go.

"Right now I'm dissatisfied with the effort from most of the guys. We need to be better.''

 

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