By Suzie Cool (published on October 2, 2019)
The Rochester Americans are set to embark on their 64th season in the American Hockey League Friday night when they host the Syracuse Crunch at The Blue Cross Arena. With new systematics in place and the implementation of new Buffalo Sabres head coach, Ralph Krueger, Amerks head coach Chris Taylor was getting ready to gear up for his third season as the bench boss in Rochester.
However, there was a sudden change of plans following the news that broke early Tuesday morning at The Blue Cross Arena and KeyBank Center in Buffalo, causing an organizational shift amongst the coaching staff.
The Sabres released earlier this week the conditions as to why the immediate coaching change was needed to take place just days before both teams open their respective seasons.
“Buffalo Sabres Assistant Coach Don Granato has been hospitalized with severe pneumonia and will be taking a medical leave from the team.”
Taylor got the call-up to the National Hockey League to serve as Buffalo’s interim assistant coach while Gord Dineen assumes the head coaching duties in Rocherster. Additionally, Sabres development coach Adam Mair is being added to the Amerks coaching staff for the beginning of their regular season.
Despite the timing of the announcement, and with Opening Night just days away, the Amerks management, staff and players remain confident in what the team can bring even in Taylor’s absence. Amerks General Manager Randy Sexton even seemed at ease when talking about Dineen taking over following Tuesday mornings practice.
WATCH: GM RANDY SEXTON POST-PRACTICE INTERVIEW
Sexton joked about Dineen having a few more gray hairs than Taylor, but when it got down to the Amerks key principles on the ice, he hindered on the similarities that the two have in their beliefs while running a team.
“Their whole approach to the players is very similar. They believe, as we do, in building strong relationships with the players. They believe that honest, straight forward communication and honesty with the players. All of those key principles are the same, they just have a little different delivery style.”
Dineen is heading into his 18th season as an AHL coach and his third with the Amerks. In fact, the head coach nod at the AHL level is one that he’s all too familiar dating back to his eight-year stint with the Toronto Marlies organization and before that as the inaugural head coach of the Iowa Chops for the 2008-09 season.
During the Marlies 2014-15 campaign, Dineen helped lead the team to a 40-27-9 overall record, good for second place in the AHL’s North Division, and a berth in the Calder Cup Playoffs.
Along with Dineen’s years of knowledge behind the bench, he brings a magnitude of playing time in the NHL. From 1982 to 2000, Dineen spent 18 years playing professional hockey, most of which was spent in the NHL.
WATCH: GORD DINEEN POST-PRACTICE INTERVIEW
Originally drafted by the New York Islanders in the 1981 NHL Draft at just 18 years old, Dineen saw time with the Islanders, Minnesota North Stars, Pittsburgh Penguins and Ottawa Senators. Dineen spent most of his NHL days with the Islanders, where he played 528 games and registered 106 points with the club.
Defenseman Zach Redmond touched on the relatability Dineen has with the players on the Amerks roster, making it easy to approach and call on him in his new position.
“He’s got hundreds of games in the NHL, the American League. He’s been up, down and he’s gone through everything that any one of us could possibly go through. To have somebody like that around to call on and just to be able to ask those hard questions.”
Being with the Amerks staff over the last two seasons, Dineen has a good feel for the guys returning to the Rochester roster. It’s extremely helpful that the leadership core is back from the 2018-19 campaign with guys like Kevin Porter, Redmond, Nathan Paetsch and Andrew MacWilliam leading the way.
WATCH: ZACH REDMOND POST-PRACTICE INTERVIEW
Porter, the Amerks 2018-19 team captain, discussed the easy transition it will be heading into Friday night’s Home Opener with Dineen’s new takeover.
“Obviously, it’s never that easy, but with Gord it is. It makes it much better. He’s been around, he knows the systems, he knows ‘Tayls’, he knows a lot of guys, the leadership group. So, I think it makes it a little bit easier.”
Although the Amerks have been thrown a bit of a curveball to start the 2019-20 campaign, Dineen remains confident in the structure that Taylor has put together prior to his sudden promotion. The identity of the team and the approach to play will remain the same. All Dineen has to do is show up and continue to implement the systems that have been put in place to begin the season. Of course, the returning leadership core has helped make this transition as seamless as possible for Dineen at this time.
WATCH: KEVIN PORTER POST-PRACTICE INTERVIEW
“It’s an easy transition for me. I don’t have to change the way we approach the game, the identity of our team. The make-up of our team is so good and definitely the most important part is the leadership that we have in the room.”
After Dineen’s first practice as interim head coach of the Amerks, first and foremost he made sure that hockey was set aside for a brief moment to address his condolences to Donato.
“First thoughts are to Donny Granato and wishing for good health for him and a quick recovery.”