Gentler, calmer Iron Mike

STEVE MACFARLANE -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:55 AM ET

DENVER -- After the Calgary Flames limped out of a woeful pre-season and into an unsuccessful three cracks at it in the regular season, everybody imagined it was a matter of time before head coach Mike Keenan exploded while dealing with his players.

Iron Mike has remained relatively calm.

Although the 57-year-old bench boss had himself proclaimed he was much more mellow than his reputation would have you believe, most were skeptical.

There's no better witness to ask for testimony than Craig Conroy, who spent some time under Keenan in arguably his most volatile tenure in St. Louis, when a feud with Brett Hull eventually led to the coach's dismissal.

"Oh yeah. I definitely think, so far, very mellow -- especially with that record the way it was, without getting a win the first three," said Conroy, whose Flames took the day off to travel to Denver yesterday after stringing together a pair of wins on the road in Dallas and Nashville.

"I was expecting a lot -- fireworks."

An eruption never came -- at least not the type everyone expected.

"For the most part, where I thought maybe he was going to snap and lose it, he's been pretty calm. He's still not happy, he still says it. The delivery's changed. That's the biggest difference that I've noticed," said Conroy.

"He could scream at us, but he hasn't been. He hasn't been yelling and screaming. He's just kind of laying it on the line. 'This is what it is.'

"Everything that he's saying, it's a little more calm in the way he says it. It's just true -- you know it's true. Every guy in the room knows when he says it, it's like, 'You know what? He's right.' "

It's a far different picture of Iron Mike than the one painted in previous stints.

"It's a little bit different. I remember St. Louis, I was definitely on edge. But there was a lot of stuff going on then, between him and Hull, just kind of the whole thing," said Conroy. "There was always rumours that Hully was gonna get traded or Mike was going to get let go. Back and forth. It made it uncomfortable."

Despite the more laid-back demeanour, Keenan is still an intimidating presence behind the bench.

And the intensity in his eyes is always near the surface. It's what you'd expect from a Stanley Cup coach.

"He has changed but still commands (respect)," said Conroy of coach Keenan. "When he talks, and when he says something, they listen."

ICE CHIPS

The Flames sent G Matt Keetley back to AHL Quad City. G Curtis McElhinney will back up G Miikka Kiprusoff tomorrow in Colorado.


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