Friday, June 15, 2007

The Resurrection of Iron Mike

He was dead wasn't he? We killed him with our neglect and our indifference. He killed himself by trading the best goalie in the game for a back-up goalie and a goon with a bad back. He was done, washed up, a punchline. But no, now he's back. Back to ruin my life and turn me into a generally miserable person for at least one NHL season. And yes, I have made this all about me...

Now I'll be the first to admit that I was no fan of (now former) Calgary Flames head coach Jim Playfair. It always seemed that he lacked the passion and emotion to lead a team - a lot of the time he just looked like a deer in headlights. His stoic expressions got so frustrating that Cooper and I determined (as he explained yesterday) that Jim Playfair was in fact a cyborg, but unfortunately not the super-intelligent kind, who coached based on a complicated, shadowy punch-card system that nobody understood or acknowledged. However, he was a rookie head coach, so growing pains were inevitable. As a Flames fan, the frustrating thing was that last years Calgary Flames were an extraordinarily talented team but they seemed to lack passion, direction and focus - all of these things fell at the feet of Jim Playfair. And I admit that more than once I called for Playfair to get the big, ugly axe. However, that being said...

...Mike Keenan! Are you kidding me? I'd rather have Keenan Ivory Wayans behind the Flames' bench.

Wow, where should I even start to tell this tale? How about on Wednesday night... I arrived home at about 11pm on Wednesday on flipped on The Score, say what you will about their on-air talent, I love the Ticker. And what is the Breaking News that night - a source was claiming that the Calgary Flames were going to announce "Iron" Mike Keenan as their new head coach. As soon as I regained consciousness, I flipped on the computer to see if I could get in touch with any of my fellow Flames fans, but of course when I really needed someone to talk this over with, nobody was around. So I shot off a couple emails and went to sleep. I woke up Thursday morning thinking it was all a bad dream, no current NHL general manager would hire a coach who hasn't been relevant in almost 15 years, would they? Especially not one as savvy as Darrell Sutter. However, confirmed that no, it had not been a bad dream.

Once the announcement of Mike Keenan as the new Flames' head coach was official, the reaction of hockey people varied between 'stunned' and 'stunned'. Scott Burnside of said the only explanation was Sutter getting kicked in the head by a cow - and likened Keenan to a "cockroach" - you can read Burnside's article here. The only explanation I can come up with is that Keenan called in a favour for one last job and Sutter felt obligated - Keenan gave Sutter his first head coaching job in Chicago in the early 90's.

I am literally still stunned over all of this, I'd rather have Grace Sutter coach the Flames. I'd rather have Grace Slick coach the Flames.

Now you may ask yourself, why all the hostility, Keenan was a good coach for a lot of years in the NHL. And to that I would say that yes, he was a good coach for many years, unfortunately those years were in the mid 80's to early 90's. That was a long, long time ago and the game has changed a great deal since then. But even more than the game changing, the players have changed. Keenan's scream in your face, question your manhood, destroy your will to live coaching style just doesn't fly anymore. The players will simply not respond to this style - they'll quit on you faster than you can say "has been". It may have worked in the 80's but that was a long time ago. Just ask players and fans from his stops in Vancouver, Boston and Florida how they feel about Keenan. As one former player (Brett Hull) said, "He's the kind of guy who will stab you in the back right to your face." Fantastic, welcome aboard!

I think this could be particularly destructive to a Flames' team that thrives on team chemistry. By bringing in one of the most divisive coach's in NHL history, I think I'm well within my rights to be concerned about what this is going to do to the team.

Since he took over as the GM in Calgary, Flames fans have had a calming mantra - "In Darryl We Trust." However, the Keenan signing is so out of left field and unexpected that even the biggest Sutter supporters have had their faith shaken.

I suppose the season is many months away and I should take a 'wait and see' attitude towards all of this. And I will give management the benefit of the doubt but it's going to be a very short leash. I just wanted to go on record now so I'm not accused of jumping on the 'Fire Keenan' bandwagon if things start to go bad about the 3rd week of the season.

I just hope this doesn't turn out like I think it's going to. It could be a long winter.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The last time Mike Keenan was anywhere near effective as a coach (I'm not professing he ever was), the Ottawa Roughriders (or is that Rough Riders) played in the CFL and Saskatchewan had a Conservative government (which by the way was about as ineffective and less corrupt than Keenan's coaching tactics).
Why do NHL teams continue to regurgitate over the hill has-been coaches (hello Ken Hitchcock) when there are so many young up and comers (hello Craig Hartsburg).
I am not a real fan of the Calgary Flames, my team will remain annonymous, it's simply the principle of the thing that is ridiculous.