Bill Dineen has known enough success that he did not need to coach in the NHL to make his life complete. "It never occurred to me that it could happen," he said of being hired by the Philadelphia Flyers, Dec. 4.
General Manager Russ Farwell had telephoned him in Seattle, where he was scouting, asking him to fly to New York to watch Philadelphia play the Rangers, Dec. 2. After a 4-2 loss that stretched a Flyers' streak to 0-7-1, Farwell and Dineen had dinner.
"About three o'clock in the morning," Dineen said, "We were sitting in the lobby of the hotel. He said there was a possibility he was going to make a change. I came up with a few names. Ten minutes later, he said, 'What would you think about taking the job yourself?' I asked him what was in that water he was drinking with dinner."
Less than two days later, Farwell fired Coach Paul Holmgren, who had a 107-126-31 record and missed the playoffs the past two years, saying the club was tense and a change was needed to relieve the pressure. Enter Dineen.
"I told the players," he said, "that you've got to play hard, but you've got to play relaxed. That might sound like a contradiction, but you can't go out there feeling a lot of pressure."
In its first eight games under Dineen, Philadelphia was 2-2-4 after Thursday night's victory over the Islanders. "I think there's playoff potential," Dineen said of the sixth-place Flyers, "but if we're thinking in terms of a playoff spot, we've got to make our move soon."
If Dineen's history is a gauge, the Flyers will find a way. From 1972-78, he coached the World Hockey Association Houston Aeros to a 285-170-19 record and two titles. In 1978-79, he was 37-34-9 with the New England Whalers. The Whalers entered the NHL in 1979 and Dineen was their scouting director from 1979-83, drafting his son Kevin in 1982. Last month, Kevin was traded by Hartford to the Flyers for Murray Craven. This is the first time Dineen has coached Kevin at any level.
"He's just another player until the end of the year, then he becomes a son again," said Dineen, who had two other sons, Gord and Peter, make the NHL.
Right wing Alan Kerr, obtained from the Islanders in a May 28 trade for defenseman Rick Green (who never reported), is alive, well and playing on the Detroit Red Wings' fourth line.
After dropping from 24 to 20 to 15 goals in three seasons with the Islanders, Kerr played only two games with them last year because of kidney and eye injuries. "Both injuries were such," he said, "that I couldn't ride the bike, lift weights or do anything. I lost my strength. I didn't feel good all year." He ended it with Capital District of the American Hockey League, going 11-21-32 in 43 games.
In the off-season, Kerr went home to Kelowna, British Columbia, with his wife, Jill, and new son, James. "I had a lot of incentive to work out," he said. "I had a lot to prove. It's taken some time, but things are getting better and better." He is 2-6-8 in 28 games and doing a good job checking.
The Edmonton Oilers are 7-2-2 in their past 11 games, sparked left wing Vincent Damphousse, who has nine of his 15 goals in the span. Damphousse got four Saturday in a 7-5 home win over the Winnipeg Jets. His previous four-goal game was Jan. 19 in Chicago when he was named MVP in the All-Star Game and won a car.
"We sold it," said Damphousse, obtained from Toronto in a Sept. 19 multi-player deal. "My wife already had a car she liked. She's the boss."
Damphousse moved back to his natural position from center two weeks ago when center Bernie Nicholls reported after his wife gave birth to twins. Nicholls is 2-2-4 in five games.
MISCELLANEOUS: New contracts: Montreal D Eric Desjardins, 2 years, $1.1 million, and C-RW Brent Gilchrist, 2 years, $620,000; Quebec G Ron Tugnutt, 3 years, $1.3 million, and C Joe Sakic, awarded $1.1 million by an arbitrator for this season. . . . Calgary C Doug Gilmour is on the block after his tirade over an arbitrator's decision to award him a $750,000 salary, $450,000 less than he sought. . . . The Devils like Gilmour. GM Lou Lamoriello is wrestling with a dilemma: does he break up the best six-man defensive corps in the NHL to get Gilmour or try to get by with Peter Stastny, 35, Laurie Boschman, 31, and rookies Kevin Todd and Neil Brady at center. . . . Sources say Buffalo, happy with rookie G Tom Draper's development, wants to deal G Daren Puppa for a scoring forward. ... San Jose wants to trade G Brian Hayward for a forward, possibly Detroit LW Brian %o MacLellan.