Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Heading To Sochi

If anyone saw this coming, I want to let that person know that they may have some sort of clairvoyance that should not be stifled. When it was announced last week that Canadian women's team head coach Dan Church was resigning, the entire hockey world was caught by surprise. Church had been leading Canada to victories over the USA in the last few games, and it seemed like this team would ride on this high into Sochi. However, after stating that there were doubts about his ability to coach the Canadian women to a gold medal, Church resigned and the Canadian women's team was left in disarray, evidenced by the 5-1 beating they took at the hands of the American women last Thursday.

Had it not been for goaltender Shannon Szabados, the American women may have won by a couple of touchdowns. The team looked lost and listless on the ice, understandably, after the news of Church's resignation was given to the team just a few hours before the game. While Lisa Haley and Danielle Goyette did what they could to get Team Canada ready for battle, the results were pretty evident that the Canadian women were shaken by the news.

This, of course, meant that Hockey Canada would need to find a head coach quickly as time would be an enemy with just a couple of months before the Sochi Olympics start. There were some who wanted to see Haley and Goyette remain as the co-coaches in order to promote the women's game and women in coaching. There were some who called for Melody Davidson to return as head coach, but that idea appealed to everyone but Davidson. Hockey Canada, though, identified a coach they wanted based on his former success at a few different levels, and introduced Kevin Dineen today as the man who will guide the Canadian women in Sochi.

Honestly, I really like this hiring. Kevin Dineen has represented Canada internationally during his playing career, so he's no stranger to the international game. He won silver medals at the 1985 and 1989 World Championships amongst his four appearances at those events. He helped Canada win the 1987 Canada Cup, and he helped Canada to a fourth-place finish at the 1984 Sarajevo Winter Olympic Games. The man has some great international and Olympic history to draw on for this coaching job.

His NHL playing days saw him suit up for 1188 games, scoring 355 goals and and adding 408 helpers as a member of the Hartford Whalers, Philadelphia Flyers, Carolina Hurricanes, Ottawa Senators, and Columbus Blue Jackets. While he was a defensive forward later in his career, he twice scored 40-or-more goals in his NHL career, and became a very smart defensive forward for the last few years he played in the NHL. Dineen spent 21 seasons in the NHL, and certainly was a contributor for each of the five teams he played for in his career.

After his playing days ended, he turned to coaching. Dineen's coaching resumé is actually quite impressive as well. He was named as the head coach of the AHL's Portland Pirates in 2005, and proceeded to coach the Pirates to a 53-19-8 record which saw their season end in the Eastern Conference Final - not bad for a first-year coach! Over six seasons, Dineen would guide the Pirates to a 266-155-59 record, not posting a losing record in any season and twice losing in the Eastern Conference Final to end the season.

His NHL days were a little more difficult as he was hired to coach the Florida Panthers, but he brought new life to a team stocked with free agent veteran players. His first season saw the Panthers capture the Southeast Division crown with a 38-26-18 record, but the New Jersey Devils would upset the third-ranked Panthers in the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Injuries and poor play over the next season saw the Panthers take steps back, and a rebuilding phase that saw the Panthers struggle this season led to Dineen's dismissal after 16 games. In just over two seasons, Dineen compiled a 56-62-28 record. Not bad, but certainly better than some who had more talent.

So we have a guy who is a product of Hockey Canada, was an established goal-scorer as an NHL player who became a solid defensive forward, a great AHL coach, and a solid NHL coach. This is a man who has great experience, and it will come in handy as he gets prepared for the biggest stage for women's hockey.

The reason I like this hiring? Dineen brings an element of the NHL and AHL to the team. While I understand that women's hockey is far different from the men's game, the offensive systems that are run in the men's professional game focus on shooting and speed - talents that the Canadian women have and need to use more often. From the powerplay to defensive zone coverage, I think there's a good chance that Dineen's fingerprints will be all over this team when the tournament opens in Sochi.

"I am a product of Hockey Canada," Dineen said today at the press conference. "I've had the opportunity to represent my country on the international stage. I may have a little unfinished business from my Olympic experience."

Let's hope he gets the Canadian women back on-track this week in Grand Forks, North Dakota in their pre-tournament game, and he gets to live the dream as he guides the Canadian women to another gold medal!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!


Anonymous said...

The entire women's program is in disarray, and hiring of Dineen won't solve it. There is a major schism between the 'old guard' and the 'new blood' that has been festering from some time (ask the players, and they'll tell you the same), and Dineen won't be able to solve it pre-Sochi. The defense corps is slow, under-sized and won't be able to handle US speed (wait until they get on the big ice...) Canadian forward's have be stacked with 'big bodies, no hands' types for a while, and its starting to show (are they getting >20 shots a game against the US?). About the only positive is that in a one-game show-down for gold, anything can happen. Meaning, thats about tge best shot for Canada to win.

Teebz said...

They were in disarray before Church's resignation? They were 3-0 against the US. It was Canada dominating. I can point exactly at the resignation being the exact moment when the balance of power shifted.

But before that? It was all Canada.