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Kevin Dineen emerges as strong Tampa Bay Lightning coach candidate

Just like that, Kevin Dineen turned into a hot property. Considered for a while as the front-runner to nab the Blue Jackets' coaching job, he now could be front and center in the Lightning's coaching search as well.

Dineen, for five years the coach at AHL Portland, a Sabres affiliate, is good friends with new Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman, who made it clear he is willing to think outside the box when considering his bench boss.

"What I'm looking for is a strong leader, someone who will make decisions," Yzerman said. "I know some young potential coaches that may be available."

His only parameters: head coaching experience, though not necessarily in the NHL, and previous success.

That fits Dineen, 46, who has a 219-131-50 record with the Pirates and has advanced to two AHL finals.

There's no word on whether Yzerman has even asked the Sabres to speak to Dineen, but the clock is ticking. Yzerman said he wants a coach in place by the July 1 start of free agency.

Other possibilities? Use this as a starting point:

Scott Arniel, 47: The coach of AHL Manitoba was league coach of the year in 2008-09.

Guy Boucher, 38: The coach of AHL Hamilton was coach of the year this season.

Gerard Gallant, 46: He was the junior Canadian Hockey League's coach of the year after leading Saint John to a franchise-record 53 wins. The former Lightning left wing was Yzerman's teammate with the Red Wings from 1984 to 1993. The two still are close.

Mike Haviland, 42: The Blackhawks assistant is credited with the development of wing Dustin Byfuglien. He coached AHL Norfolk in 2005-07 and AHL Rockford in 2007-08. He won ECHL titles in 2003 with Atlantic City and 2005 with Trenton.

Paul MacLean, 52: A Red Wings assistant for five years, he played with Yzerman in 1988-89. He coached IHL Kansas City in 1997-2000 and IHL Peoria in 1993-96, and was the Hockey News minor-league coach of the year in 1994.

Brad McCrimmon, 41: Another former Yzerman teammate, the former defenseman is a Red Wings assistant and was the same with the Thrashers, Flames and Islanders. He coached Saskatoon of the junior Western Hockey League in 1998-2000.

For those who like the old guard, there is Bruins assistant Craig Ramsay, Rangers assistant Mike Sullivan (both former Lightning assistants), John Stevens, Craig MacTavish, Ken Hitchcock, Michel Therrien and Bob Hartley.

CHANGE OF PLANS: Whether it was the urgency to sign Yzerman, as owner Jeff Vinik said, or an Yzerman demand, the new GM will report directly to Vinik.

Originally, Vinik was to hire a CEO, who would then hire the general manager. That followed a flow chart in which the GM reported to the CEO, who reported to the owner.

By taking the CEO out of that chain of command, Yzerman has the last word when it comes to hockey decisions.

The CEO, who will report to the owner, will handle only business decisions and run the St. Pete Times Forum.

FEASTER INTERVIEWED: Former Lightning general manager Jay Feaster said he had a 90-minute breakfast interview about a month ago with Vinik about getting back his former job. Feaster said he did not hear back until Tuesday, when Vinik phoned to say the search was over. Feaster called the heads-up "a first-class thing."

GOOD NEWS: Feaster said that after resigning from the Lightning in summer 2008, he and wife Anne decided to stay in the area, in part so daughter Theresa could finish at Tampa Catholic High School.

Theresa, 18, graduated last week as class valedictorian. She will attend Providence College on a full academic scholarship.

"To finish it up the way she did was just unbelievable," Feaster said.

Damian Cristodero can be reached at cristodero@sptimes.com.

Kevin Dineen emerges as strong Tampa Bay Lightning coach candidate 05/28/10 [Last modified: Saturday, May 29, 2010 6:48pm]
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