On Thursday, Florida forward Scottie Upshall took aim at former head coach Kevin Dineen.
“I didn’t enjoy playing the first few seasons. For some reasons, injuries were used against me,” Upshall told the Miami Herald. “I felt like my passion was questioned, my effort was questioned.
“If anyone in the room was asked, the way I approached the game wasn’t questioned.”
Dineen, fired on Nov. 8 after a 3-9-4 start to the year, was visibly frustrated near the end of his tenure.
Just prior to being replaced by Peter Horachek, Dineen made Kris Versteeg a healthy scratch — a move Versteeg objected to by saying “obviously I’m being used as an example,” and “this is my first time ever doing this, and it isn’t pleasant.”
The scratch raised eyebrows because Versteeg entered the year coming off major knee surgery, going six months between NHL games at one point. Some argued he needed time to find his game shape, and that Dineen didn’t appreciate the difficulty of returning from such a serious injury.
“I put in a lot of work, a lot of effort this summer,” Versteeg said. “This isn’t what I wanted.”
In addition to Versteeg (since traded to Chicago) and Upshall (eight points in 10 games since the coaching change), Dineen also had issues with Sean Bergenheim’s return from injury.
Bergenheim, who missed nearly 18 months due to hip, groin and abdomen injuries, had his toughness called out by Dineen when he put off a mid-October return to the lineup to seek additional therapy.
“I’m worried about his career, I’m worried about him as a player,” Dineen told the Florida Sun-Sentinel. “It’s been an extremely long time off. I understand it’s an extremely hard game we play. He’s not a good player unless he’s physically involved in the game and he’s active.”
Dineen wasn’t done there.
“[Bergenheim] can’t feel his way into the NHL,” he continued. “That just can’t happen. He’s got to come back, feeling good about himself, understanding, you know what, there are guys in here that have bumps and bruises, and are playing hurt every night. You’re not going to feel 100 percent playing.”
Bergenheim’s issues extended beyond the head coach, though. He won a pair of injury grievances against the club after the Panthers suspended him without pay, as they believed he aggravated preexisting injuries playing in Finland during the lockout.