Just three seasons ago, Kevin Dineen was among the best right wings in the NHL, a feisty 45-goal scorer who started in the All-Star Game for the Wales Conference.
But the Whalers didn't win a playoff round that year, or any other year between 1986 and the present. Dineen, Ron Francis and Ulf Samuelsson, the players who formed the Whalers' late-'80s nucleus, took much of the blame for that failing. Last season, Francis and Samuelsson were traded to Pittsburgh as Dineen suffered through his worst NHL season, weakened by injury and illness. It was clear that he, too, was being written out of the Whalers' plans. Wednesday it became official when Hartford traded Dineen to the Flyers for forward Murray Craven and unspecified future considerations, believed to be a conditional 1992 draft choice.
Craven, never an All-Star but a key cog for the Flyers over the past several seasons, was in a similar situation. Along with guys like Scott Mellanby and Ron Sutter, he was marked by the Flyers' failure to make the playoffs in each of the past two seasons. When time came to negotiate a new contract with Craven this fall, Flyers general manager Russ Farwell, who traded Mellanby and Sutter, wasn't inclined to be generous. The discussions grew bitter. Craven asked for a trade and was scratched from two of three games last week.
"I know that (Dineen) probably is saying much the same as I'm saying, that he probably needed a fresh start. Coming to the Flyers is a good opportunity for him," Craven said Wednesday night.