Devils Further Trim Down Their Roster

The Devils continue to march closer to the NHL regular season as yesterday they made eight cuts to their roster, getting down to 34 players remaining.

According to Sam Kasan of the Inside the Devils Blog on the Devils’ official website, forwards Graeme Clarke, Nolan Foote, Aarne Talvitie and Fabian Zetterlund in addition to defensemen Kevin Bahl and Reilly Walsh and goalie Nico Daws have all been assigned to the Utica Comets of the AHL as of yesterday afternoon.

AJ Greer was put on waivers and, should he clear by today, will also be assigned to Utica. No word at the moment if the forward was claimed by anyone.

The Devils will have a few more players to cut in order to get down to an NHL roster. Obviously, the cancelation of last night’s preseason game against the Islanders puts a bit of a monkey wrench into things. While the coaching staff can get a feel in practice and scrimmages how a player is performing, there is nothing like game action against NHL-caliber players.

It is not the end of the world, but I am sure the staff would have liked to have played the game last night.

We will have more information on the roster as it becomes available.

Mark Dennehy Promoted; Dineen New Utica Coach

In a series of moves by the Devils organization, AHL coach Mark Dennehy was promoted within the club and Kevin Dineen was named new Utica Comets head coach.

Dennehy was promoted to Chief Scout, Amateur Scouting. He had served as the team’s American Hockey League head coach in Binghamton since August 1, 2018.

According to the press release put out by Devils PR, Dennehy “will work with hockey operations executives, the amateur scouting department and the entire staff to enhance the club’s scouting and development capabilities.”

New Jersey General Manager Tom Fitzgerald was quoted in the press release as saying: “Mark has a specific skillset in his hockey career that has uniquely prepared him for this newly created role within our organization. He has experience coaching young players on the international level, recruited players to play in a collegiate program that he built, and worked with young players who have achieved their NHL dreams. His ability to soak up information, ask questions, and constantly challenge the group to be better, represent what we envision this role to be. We are confident in his ability to work to continue bringing our scouting and evaluation process to the next level. Mark has already immersed himself in this new career challenge over the past few months and is extremely excited to help draft future Devils.”

Dennehy coached the Binghamton club for three years, from 2018-19 to 2020-21. His team’s best season was the middle one, 2019-20, when the team was 34-24-4 over 62 games. The press release says that they were in fourth place in the AHL’s North Division – in a playoff position – when the COVID-19 pause occurred. They were in the middle of a seven game winning streak, having gone 23-9 from December 14, 2021 to the stoppage.

Dennehy helped develop such talent as Yegor Sharangovich, Janne Kuokkanen, Michael McLeod, Nathan Bastian, Jesper Boqvist and Mikhail Maltsev, all of whom played in the NHL fairly regularly or regularly last season.

The press release notes that Nolan Foote, Kevin Bahl, Tyce Thompson and Marian Studenic all made appearances in the NHL as well last year.

Dennehy previously worked as head coach of Merrimack College of Hockey East. The press release says that in his time there, he notched 161 wins over his career. He also led the Warriors to a school-bast 25 wins in 2010-11. That season, he took the team “to the Hockey East Final and NCAA Regionals. For his efforts, Dennehy won the Bob Kullen Coach of the Year Award as the conference’s top coach.”

His experience prior to Merrimack also comes in the NCAA, with time as an assistant with UMass-Amherst from 1995 to 1996 and 2000 to 2005, Princeton University from 1997 t0 1999 and was head coach of Fairfield from 1996 to 1997.

Dennehy was a defenseman for Boston College from 1987 to 1991 and then played professionally for one year “with Ayr of the British Hockey League.”

He was an assistant coach with “the 2019 Team USA Under-18 Men’s Select Team at the 2019 Hlinka-Gretzky Cup” and “head coach of Team USA’s Under-17 Men’s Select Team that placed third in the 2018 Under-17 Five Nations Tournament and was assistant coach fo the 2017 Under-17 Five Nations Tournament team that secured gold.”

With Dennehy moving to the front office for the New Jersey Devils, there was a vacancy that needed to be filled in Utica.

Enter Kevin Dineen.

The Devils announced today that they had hired Dineen to coach the Utica Comets. Hia staff will include Associate Coach Sergei Brylin, Assistant Coach Ryan Parent, Goaltending Coach Brian Eklund and Video Coach Adam Purner.

Devils Assistant GM and Utica GM Dan MacKinnon said: “Tom Fitzgerald, Robert Esche and I are pleased to bring Kevin and his family into the New Jersey Devils organization, and we all look forward to what he will bring to Utica. Kevin’s vast coaching experience in both an NHL and AHL bench, winning a Stanley Cup as an Assistant Coach and his international experience with young players covers everything you want in a coach to lead our AHL team. The organization is excited by the players who will hit the ice in Utica this season and their future possibilities to help the big club in New Jersey. Kevin, and the entire returning staff, have all the attributes we look for in individuals to help our players develop successfully.”

Dineen spent the last two years as head coach of the San Diego Gulls (AHL affiliate of the Anaheim Ducks). Over those two seasons, he led the Gulls to a 56-36-9 record. They lost in the first round of the Calder Cup Playoffs in 2021.

The press release on the subject from Devils PR notes that prior to his time in the Ducks’ organization, he as an assistant coach with the Chicago Blackhawks, from 2014 to 2019, winning a Stanley Cup in his time there.

His resume includes time as Assistant General Manager of the Columbus Blue Jackets from 2003 to 2005. He was head coach of the Portland Pirates from 2005 to 2008 when they were the Ducks’ AHL affiliate and 2008 to 2011 when they were the AHL affiliate of the Buffalo Sabres.

In the AHL, he took the Pirates to the AHL Eastern Conference Finals in 2006 and 2008 and won the Louis A.R. Pieri Memorial Award as AHL Coach of the Year in 2005.

At the NHL level, he served as head coach of the Florida Panthers from 2011 to 2013, collecting a 56-62-28 record. The press release notes that Florida lost in 2012 to the Devils in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals with New Jersey going on to win the Eastern Conference that year.

Dineen was head coach of Team Canada’s women’s team at the 2014 Winter Olympics. He led them to their fourth straight gold medal in Sochi, Russia that year.

In addition, he was Canada’s men’s team head coach at the 2014 IIHF World Junior U-18 Championship – where they won bronze.

Dineen played 19 NHL seasons, being drafted by the Hartford Whalers 56th overall in 1982. He played for the Whalers/Carolina Hurricanes, Philadelphia Flyers, Columbus and the Ottawa Senators – scoring 355 goals and 760 assists, totaling 760 points and 2,229 penalty minutes. In 59 Stanley Cup Playoff games, he racked up 23 goals and 18 assists for 41 points and 127 penalty minutes.

Another hire by Utica is Damion Parmelee as Head Equipment Manager. Parmelee joins the Devils-affiliated Comets from his time with the Vancouver Canucks-affiliated Comets (technically a different franchise that moved to Abbotsford, British Columbia).

Chris Murphy continues as Assistant Equipment Manager and Jon Williams relocates from Binghamton to continue as Head Athletic Trainer/Strength and Conditioning Coach. Steve Nightingale will come in as Strength and Conditioning Coach.