SUN Hockey Pool

Winning key to this coach's heart

STEVE MACFARLANE -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:34 AM ET

Have no fear, just win.

That's the advice one of Mike Keenan's former students has for his fellow Calgary Flames.

"It will be interesting to see what it's like when he just comes in for the first time. Guys are going to be a little nervous. You hear stories," said centre Craig Conroy, who spent a few months under Keenan in St. Louis during the 1996-97 season before the head coach was sent packing after Christmas.

"He does a lot of things so well but you just hear about when he snaps. Like any coach, they're all going to have problems."

Conroy witnessed Keenan's biggest one, a venomous feud with Blues star Brett Hull that ended in the coach's dismissal that season.

"It was kind of crazy there with him and Brett," Conroy said. "There was definitely tension, more tension in the room than probably he would have liked or anybody would have. You could feel it.

"But for the most part, I think if we're winning and doing what he wants, it's going to be a great place to play. If you're losing, it's going to be miserable. So you just don't want to lose," Conroy added with a laugh.

Keenan is more recently known for his GM duties in Florida and may forever be remembered for giving up goaltender Roberto Luongo to Vancouver before last season in a lopsided deal. He won't have that kind of power here but his opinions will certainly be taken into consideration by Calgary GM Darryl Sutter.

"We're not making major player changes. This is a very good hockey club," Sutter said yesterday. "Mike and I think a lot alike in terms of what kind of players it takes to win. So did Jimmy (Playfair)."

One Flame who might heave a sigh of relief to hear that is winger Kristian Huselius, who was waived by Keenan in Florida before being dealt to Calgary.

Huselius told a Swedish newspaper yesterday he was surprised by the move but wasn't worried they will clash.

"I had a good season last year. And Keenan is coming to a different organization and a better club," Huselius told Aftonbladet. "For me, it's no problem at all. If he just lets the players compete on the same conditions, I think this is gonna work out fine."

Keenan, who also coached Marcus Nilson in Florida, noticed a change in Huselius since the trade.

"I thought he was a little bit miscast in Florida. Because the team didn't have the same depth as this team, he probably was asked to do some things that were a little bit above his level of play," Keenan said.

"He was cast well here in a good role and it worked well for him."


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