Niagara Gazette

Pro Sports

July 10, 2009

SABRES: Dineen still in learning mode



When Portland was Anaheim’s affiliate, Dineen guided a team that had players like Dustin Penner, Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf and Bobby Ryan deep into the AHL playoffs.

Last season, his team included players like Nathan Gerbe and Tim Kennedy, and when he talks about Gerbe, Dineen gets the glow of a guy who’s seen something special.

“When Nathan Gerbe’s on the ice, it’s hard not to notice him out there. He’s so dynamic. Some of the plays he makes are high-end plays. I tell whoever he’s playing with that they better be ready and have their stick on the ice,” Dineen said.

“He’s a fun player to watch, a fun player to coach and he’s got a great future in front of him.”

And the good feelings are mutual. Gerbe said at camp this week that Dineen would make a great NHL coach.

“He tells you things straight and that’s what makes him a great coach,” Nathan Gerbe said. “Some guys don’t like that, but he’s fun to play for and fun to be around.”

For now, though, Dineen insists he’s not worried about taking the next coaching leap. Buffalo’s previous AHL coach, Randy Cunneyworth, spent seven seasons behind the bench before severing ties and becoming an assistant with the Atlanta Thrashers.

In 2004-05, Cunneyworth won the Pieri Memorial Award as the AHL’s top coach. Dineen won the award the following season. Dineen doesn’t seem concerned that he seems to be following in Cunneyworth’s footsteps.

“(To get) labeled as an AHL coach, that doesn’t really bother me in any way. That’s what I am, a coach in the American Hockey League,” Dineen said.

“I really enjoy where we’re at. We have an incredible quality of life in Portland. This is the stage I’m at right now. I’m not too worried about the label.”

Contact sports editor Tim Schmitt at 282-2311, ext. 2266.

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