Odd Man Rush: Dineen firing won't take players off the hook

Philadelphia, PA ( - Florida Panthers general manager Dale Tallon sounded on Friday morning like he would have fired his whole team if he could have.

Unfortunately for Kevin Dineen, that can't happen and that is why he was left unemployed following his club's seventh straight loss on Thursday night.

Dineen was given the axe the next morning less than two seasons after he helped guide the Panthers to their first ever Southeast Division title and first playoff appearance since 2000 in his first season as Florida's head coach in 2011-12.

Tallon called the decision one of the toughest he ever had to make. It likely won't be the last move he makes either.

"It's easier to fire a coach than to fire 23 players, but we're on the phone constantly and we're going to make changes as we go," Tallon said on a conference call Friday morning. "We want people who want to be Panthers and if they don't want to be, we'll accommodate them. Right now, I'm dissatisfied with the effort from most of the guys and we need to be better."

Dineen didn't lack for passion in his role as head coach and deserves credit for getting the Panthers into the playoffs in the first season of a major roster overhaul. Tallon needed to spend a ton of money ahead of that season just to reach the cap floor, which is why players like Scottie Upshall, Jose Theodore and Ed Jovanovski all got multi-year contracts and the Panthers took the expensive Brian Campbell off of the Chicago Blackhawks' hands.

Dineen made it work for one season, but the rebuilding process Tallon started failed to reach phase two.

While the Panthers have acquired plenty of talent through the draft, including Calder Trophy winner Jonathan Huberdeau, Erik Gudbranson and Aleksander Barkov, Tallon has failed to mix in enough supporting veterans the last two offseasons.

Those he has brought in weren't being reached by Dineen in Tallon's eyes. Assistants Gord Murphy and Craig Ramsay were also let go, while Peter Horachek, who was in his first season coaching the San Antonio Rampage of the American Hockey League, replaces Dineen with an interim tag attached.

"It was clear that our team needed a change in philosophy and direction," he said. "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."

Perhaps the GM was banking too much on repeated success from the likes of Campbell, Kris Versteeg and Tomas Fleischmann as both Mikael Samuelsson and Jason Garrison left Sunrise after the first-round playoff exit to the New Jersey Devils.

That offseason, thrown into some chaos thanks to the lockout, saw just Filip Kuba and George Parros added with multi-year deals. Parros has since been traded and Kuba had his final season bought out.

This past offseason brought more of the same, with Stephen Weiss bolting to sign with Detroit for five years and Florida signing players like Scott Gomez, the owner of just 11 goals the previous three seasons, to a one-year deal.

Injuries this season and last -- including one to goaltender Tim Thomas, a free agent signing prior to the start of this campaign -- haven't helped, but is it still a big surprise that the Panthers slipped to 15-27-6 in the lockout-shortened campaign and have opened up the 2013-14 season 3-9-4?

"You're not going to win a hockey game playing one period. It's frustrating. We have to put 60 minutes together and it's getting old pretty quick, losing," forward Shawn Matthias said after a 4-1 loss to Boston on Thursday, Dineen's last on the bench.

"It's not fun right now."

Tallon has worked his magic before, helping transform the Blackhawks into a Stanley Cup winner in 2010, so he himself probably has some wiggle room in the eyes of new owner Vincent Viola.

The same can't be said for the skaters on the ice.

"We're all responsible for this record and this marks the first change as we begin to turn this franchise around and become a winning organization," said Tallon.

"Our better players have to start playing better, or we will get better players."

That could still prove to be a challenge for the general manager.