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Mike Keenan Fired By The Flames: Sutter In?

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16Mike Keenan Fired By The Flames: Sutter In? - Page 2 Empty Re: Mike Keenan Fired By The Flames: Sutter In? on Sat May 23, 2009 12:49 am


The view from Calgary:

Flames fire Keenan
Vicki Hall, The Calgary Herald/May 22, 2009

CALGARY - The Iron Mike reign is over.

A Calgary Flames news release titled "Keenan Relieved of Coaching Duties" hit cyberspace Friday afternoon, marking the official end of two years of Mike Keenan behind the bench at the Pengrowth Saddledome.

"Our team did not meet expectations," general manager Darryl Sutter said in the written statement. "Following detailed evaluation over the past three weeks - and taking into consideration all factors affecting our season-ending result - we believe this is a necessary change required to allow our team to continue toward our objective of winning the Stanley Cup."

Under Keenan, the Flames fell short of that objective, with two consecutive first-round playoff exits courtesy of the San Jose Sharks and Chicago Blackhawks.

"The Calgary Flames organization appreciates and respects Mike for accepting the opportunity to come to Calgary and are thankful for his efforts over the past two years," Sutter wrote.

With that, the general manager deferred all comment to a news conference scheduled for Tuesday.

The fates of associate coach Jim Playfair and the assistants probably won't be known until July 1, when all their contracts are up.

Keenan, 59, is expected to hold a news conference of his own early next week. He still has a year remaining on a guaranteed contract that is believed to pay him close to $1 million annually.

"I'm always saddened when things like this happen," said Harley Hotchkiss, a member of the Flames ownership group. " I'm sure it was (subject to) a full, thorough discussion by the key people."

Known for his hot temper and unpredictable ways early in his career, Keenan leaves Calgary with the reputation of a toned-down version of his former hard-line self.

"You can point fingers all you want, but obviously, the players have a lot to do with it," forward Eric Nystrom said from his off-season home in Long Island, N.Y. "But if ownership feels it's the right thing for the team, obviously it's something that had to happen."

Nystrom - like many Flames - learned of the head coach's dismissal via text from a teammate who spotted the breaking news on the internet.

It hardly came as an overwhelming shock to Nystrom, who figured something might happen after yet another abysmal conclusion to a promising season.

"We've been bounced from the first round for the past four years in a row," he said. "Nobody's happy with that. And we had that big lead in the division and saw that disappear."

In late January, the Flames held a commanding 14-point lead over the Vancouver Canucks in the race for the Northwest Division title.

In the end, the Canucks stormed back to finish first. Calgary dropped to fifth in the conference and opened the playoffs on the road in Chicago.

The injury-ravaged Flames fell in six games to the youthful Blackhawks.

"People here in Calgary are so nice," said forward Craig Conroy. "But being around the city after we lost, they want action. They feel like we had a better team and we should still be playing.

"Darryl had to make decision. I'm sure it was tough for him, but he's doing what he feels best for the team. And now he's going to have to find someone to replace Mike."

Conroy learned the news via text after watching his daughter Sidney, 4, shine at gymnastics class.

"I was a little surprised - to say the least," Conroy said. "I do like Mike. He's a great man and a great coach. I feel comfortable with Mike.

"It's not just the coach. It's the players. We have to do more. But a lot of times, the guy who takes the fall is the head coach. I think that's what happened here."

Sutter foreshadowed the move in his round of post-season media interviews. The general manager criticized his coach for riding goalie Miikka Kiprusoff to exhaustion.

Kiprusoff played a league-leading 76 games, and Sutter said his goaltender looked tired down the stretch.

"Kipper wanted to play the games," Conroy said. "He always said he wanted to be the guy to play, and Mike has the history of always playing his goaltenders that much. Was it too much?

"I mean, Mike would have given Kipper a day off if he wanted the day off. But he always wanted to play. But the year before, Keenan would play Curtis Joseph and everyone would go in the other direction. It's a catch-22. He either plays too much or not enough."

Sutter's other main complaint centred on the rumour that was team defence.

The Flames were No. 1 in that category in 2005-06, but slipped to No. 23 in 2008-09.

"That's the biggest thing - our goals against," Conroy said. "We have to play better defence. And if we do that, we've got the scoring.

"If we can get back to the top four or five in the league in goals against, then we're going to be a tough team to beat."

Keenan is ranked fourth all-time among NHL coaches in wins with 691 - just one back of third-place Dick Irvin Sr.

And Keenan savoured every single victory as a Flame, in the eyes according to Conroy.

"He was passionate about winning," Conroy said. "When we win, he's more happy than some of the guys. He would be in there cheering with us. Usually coaches just walk in the room and they're not really happy.

"Mike enjoyed the winning part."

In the end, he just didn't win enough.

17Mike Keenan Fired By The Flames: Sutter In? - Page 2 Empty Re: Mike Keenan Fired By The Flames: Sutter In? on Sat May 23, 2009 10:04 am


Eight of the thirty teams? "Suitcase" Sillinger's played for 12. Two "Mikes", 20 teams between them. And Keenan's got more years ahead of him than Sillinger. It will be a race to the finish!

18Mike Keenan Fired By The Flames: Sutter In? - Page 2 Empty CAL Fires Keenan on Sat May 23, 2009 10:40 am



19Mike Keenan Fired By The Flames: Sutter In? - Page 2 Empty Re: Mike Keenan Fired By The Flames: Sutter In? on Sat May 23, 2009 10:47 am

Nasty Nas

Nasty Nas


More news and views from Calgary:

Brent Sutter 'feels bad' for Mike

George Johnson, Calgary Herald, May 23, 2009

At home in Red Deer, Brent Sutter had not yet heard of Mike Keenan's grisly fate.
"I just feel bad for Mike,'' he said. "He's a colleague.''

Sutter also insisted the ludicrously drawn-out four-day wait for his brother, Calgary Flames' general manager Darryl Sutter, to address the termination of Keenan, his hand-picked skipper with a year to run on a contract, isn't tied into making a big splashy show of unveiling the two-time world junior coaching kingpin as Iron Mike's successor.

"I'm employed by the New Jersey Devils,'' repeated Brent Sutter, who has one year remaining on his deal in the swamplands. "I haven't talked to Darryl much even as a brother since I've been back home. I'm just trying to sort through some things right now, to see what I want to do. Mr. Lamoriello and I have always taken this year by year.

"I haven't thought about anything like that.''

Sutter's desire to return to his Alberta roots, to be nearer his family and business interests that include the highly successful Red Deer Rebels franchise, is no secret. Whether that move simply has to include an NHL coaching position is entirely up to him, naturally. In the past, he has told people he wasn't sure Calgary, under the circumstances, would be the most proprietous of fits.

But perhaps he's changed his mind on that.

The word in Jersey is that if Sutter decides he wants to leave the Devils for another NHL position now, general manager Lou Lamoriello - a notoriously tough negotiator - would not stand in his way, but there's no doubting significant compensation would be involved.

After two seasons at the helm here, Keenan was undone by his failure to propel the Flames to a place they've only been once over the past two decades - the second round of the NHL playoffs.

Did he deserve to walk the plank?

If you buy wholeheartedly into Darryl Sutter's sales pitch on the quality of the team at his disposal, yes, he did. In the wake of a fourth consecutive premature exit, someone had to be offered up on the altar of human sacrifice. Changing all or a portion of the assistant coaching staff, all of whose contracts run out
July 1, never seemed to be a significant enough move.

But as the days after Sutter publicly voiced his dissatisfaction with the workload heaped on goalie Miikka Kiprusoff (hmmmm, wonder why, as Keenan's boss, he didn't just walk downstairs and order him to give the guy a rest) and the steady erosion of commitment in the defensive end of the rink wore on, it appeared Iron Mike had avoided the electric chair.

Then, Friday, they up and flip the switch to fry him.

What this dismissal does is heap even more scrutiny on Darryl Sutter and his blueprint. He recycled Keenan, an old-school cage-rattler who hadn't won a playoff round since 1996, to the astonishment of many. He assembled this group; built it in his image. He's told everyone, again and again, that it was fully capable of a long spring run.

And yet, here they are, facing a fourth coaching change in the past five seasons.

Perhaps the time has come to question the way the army has been built, not the rotating men in command.

So what now? Do the Flames bring in someone new? Hitmen coach Dave Lowry's name will undoubtedly pop up, but does one year as a head coach in junior qualify anyone to be thrown into such a hornet's nest?

Ex-Rangers boss Tom Renney doesn't seem to be a smooth Sutter fit, but he's a proven commodity, a teaching coach, and available.

Pat Quinn, the leathery old Irishman? It's unlikely another old-time recycle would go over well at the moment.

Assistant Jim Playfair, who did a lot of the actual coaching during the Keenan regime, would be a tough sell, seeing as how he was deemed not ready for prime time back in 2007 when they hired the Iron One to replace him.

Do they install a caretaker already on the payroll - say, player personnel man Duane Sutter - to bridge the gap until Brent Sutter becomes contractually free?

Or does Darryl Sutter himself - given that Keenan is still owed a year of significant salary - get handed the pooper-scooper by ownership and ordered to clean up the litter box himself? If only for a year? He wouldn't be keen on the idea . . . then again, he mightn't have any choice.

Perhaps more light will be shed on the situation Tuesday, when Darryl Sutter deigns to address the decision, long after the fact. Then again, maybe not.

In the wake of the firing of Keenan, though, predictably late on a Friday afternoon, Brent Sutter's will be the name at the forefront of all speculation.

And will continue to be, until a successor is named here or Sutter announces he's fulfilling his contract in Jersey.

21Mike Keenan Fired By The Flames: Sutter In? - Page 2 Empty Re: Mike Keenan Fired By The Flames: Sutter In? on Sat May 23, 2009 11:33 pm


Here is something to think about. Sutter's contract expires after the 09/10 season and as it stands there has been no contract extension talks. Sutter finds himself in a BM scenario where his last 2 choices of Playfair and Keenan have not panned out since Sutter went upstairs. Thoughts of a potential replacement are all over the board from Quinn to the Dave Lowry (hitman coach). So who know which direction he will go in. There was also talk on the Fan 960 that Sutter may need to find away out of cap issue in order to move the team forward. The obvious area of concern mentioned was at back up so Kipper is not worn down.

Sutter has his work cut out for him over the next month.


Robin Regehr's very candid assessment of Keenan may surprise some...from The Calgary Herald:

Keenan's heyday in past: Regehr

Vicki Hall, The Calgary Herald/Saturday, May 23, 2009

Don't get Robyn Regehr wrong. The resident defensive stalwart in the Calgary Flames clubhouse respects his former boss, Mike Keenan.

No one wins 691 games as a National Hockey League head coach by accident.

But Regehr figures the best coaching days of Iron Mike came before his two-year stint with the Calgary Flames - back in a time where free-flowing hockey was all the rage.

As such, Regehr thinks general manager Darryl Sutter made the right decision by firing coach Mike Keenan with a year remaining on his contract.

"Mike's a guy who was coaching in his heyday in the '80s and early '90s when he had his success," Regehr said late Friday afternoon after news of Keenan's dismissal broke. "If you don't adapt, it doesn't work anymore. It's become a lot more technical.

"We just were lacking in that area."

Keenan won a Stanley Cup in 1994 with the New York Rangers. He also led the Philadelphia Flyers to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final in 1987.

Since 1996 in St. Louis, his teams have not advanced beyond the first round of the playoffs.

"The biggest difference from back then is the margin of error," Regehr said. "The margin of error was a lot greater back then. You were able to play that type of hockey. There was so much talent on some of those teams. There was a big, big discrepancy. They could just turn it on in a period and win games and do it on a regular basis."

Parity is the buzz word in a salary cap era where teams - such as the Carolina Hurricanes - can advance against the odds by sticking to a detailed defensive system.

In other words, the players do as they're told. Freelancing is frowned upon, if not forbidden.

"Nowadays, it's ultra competitive," Regehr said. "The line is so fine between winning and losing and making the playoffs one year and not making the playoffs another year.

"You really have to be very, very disciplined in the way the team plays and the structure of the way the team plays.

"We can do a lot better job of that as players - and as a coach as well."

In Regehr's mind, inconsistency is the best way to describe the 2008-09 version of the Calgary Flames.

The Flames finished this season with 46 wins and 98 points before falling to the Chicago Blackhawks in the first round.

On some nights, they played as a team under the system devised by associate coach Jim Playfair. On others, they abandoned the plan totally and left a beleaguered Miikka Kiprusoff to his own devices in the Calgary net.

And sometimes, they showed multiple personalities in the same game.

"I think anyone who has watched our team here in the last year or two years, they've seen that our team is very inconsistent," he said. "We would play some really good hockey then all of a sudden switch to a style of hockey that we just can't play in order to win games consistently."

That lack of consistency led to yet another first-round playoff exit.

Throughout the year, some players seemed committed to the system, Regehr said. Others did not.

"It was very frustrating," he said. "We had some guys who were playing the way they were asked to - the way we wanted to. And some guys weren't. It would flip-flop, and we just couldn't seem to grasp it and hold on to it."

"I think that had a lot to do with the philosophy that was brought to the team by Mike."

The Flames finished 23rd in team defence this year - a statistic Regehr finds galling. The power play ranked 21st.

"We need a coach who will come in and have a current philosophy," Regehr said.

"A guy who will come in and earn the respect of the players and also get them to buy in to what he is saying."


During the Game Four Pens-Cans 1st period intermission on RDS...Jacques Demers and Michel Therrien are discussing Darryl Sutter's suggestion that, while he has three candidates for the coaching position in Calgary...Sutter may appoint himself.

Waiting for Brother Brent?

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