Kevin Dineen was looking at the NHL’s head coaching vacancies as the summer began. No opportunities, however, loomed.
“I got left without a seat at the table,” said the former Florida Panthers head coach.
It wasn’t long, however, when a seat was available – as an assistant coach, a job Dineen has never held in hockey. Considering it’s with the Blackhawks and on the staff of his longtime friend Joel Quenneville, it was a win-win situation.
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Dineen spoke with the media on Friday, a few hours before the Blackhawks’ annual convention began at the Hilton. For Dineen, who fills the vacancy left when Jamie Kompon took over the general manager/coaching duties for the Portland Winterhawks, the chance to work with the Blackhawks was irresistible.
“I think it just opens the door. That’s all you want,” Dineen said. “I think Joel had a real comfort with my resume and, I guess, personality. But really you've got to come in and explain yourself and how you can help or feel that you can support the group. It's a very prestigious opportunity that a lot of quality people out there, I'm sure, were looking (at taking). So I consider myself pretty fortunate.”
Dineen and Quenneville were teammates with the Hartford Whalers through a good deal of the 1980s. Quenneville said Dineen was one of several good candidates for the job – “there were 1,000 people who wanted to be here, like players,” he said. But Dineen proved the right fit.
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“Kevin’s a very fiery guy, one of the fiercest competitors I’ve ever played with,” Quenneville said. “He did a nice job in Florida and he’s excited about coming to Chicago. He’s thrilled to be a part of what’s going on around here. He can contribute a lot of ways. It’s the same role as Jamey and (Mike) Kitchen: we all have input.”
Given Dineen’s background favoring more offense, he’s ready to help work with the Blackhawks’ power play.
“As far as specifics to get into, uh, I like talent. I like skill and there's a bucket-load of it here,” he said. “We have not finalized all the details. I come from that offensive background. I think that's where I'll be leaning and working with this group of players, I tell ya, it's so exciting."
What Dineen’s not looking at right now is the distant future. He’s not looking at this as a steppingstone to a head-coaching job later. It’s about right now, and Dineen is looking forward to the challenge.
“As far as what my future is, I'm just so excited about this opportunity. This is where I've decided to jump in and I don't have this big long-term game plan that I'm going to make this play somewhere down the line and end up somewhere else,” he said. “This is where I am. And I think from the number of messages and texts messages I've received, I think I've landed very well.”