Miami stop no big deal to Keenan

STEVE MACFARLANE -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:55 AM ET

FLORIDA -- The second stop on the Calgary Flames' current tour is also a former haunt of head coach Mike Keenan, but it holds nowhere near the significance of their previous destination.

In Chicago, Keenan led the Blackhawks to three Norris Division titles, a President's Trophy and a Campbell Conference championship in the late 1980s and early-90s.

The Flames won 3-2 over the Hawks Sunday before jetting off to Miami to face the Florida Panthers tonight.

Keenan was fired as general manager of the Panthers before the 2006-07 season began.

But he referenced the banners hanging in the rafters at Chicago's United Center as higher importance in his memory bank.

"That's a lot more significant than the kind of sporadic time I had in Florida," he said. "There's a lot more history (in the Windy City) than in Florida."

He's spoken of his time in Florida on more than one occasion, and his words were often taken out of context, spun to create more controversy of an already unpleasant dismissal. The situation was new to Keenan, who received mixed signals as to the direction of the team.

"When I was in Florida, we had a team that probably wasn't ready to win. That was prior to the lockout," said Keenan. "It was really a different time. It was sporadic in terms of the direction the team was going to take.

"When I went there, Pavel Bure was there, and then there was a decision made that sent Pavel away and they were going to rebuild the team -- which wasn't the idea when I went there.

"The lockout came and (there were) some good young players, but again, a rebuilding stage."

Used to veteran teams closer to the ultimate goal of winning a Stanley Cup -- which he did with the New York Rangers in 1994 -- Keenan must have felt a little handcuffed in the Sunshine State.

"There was a lot of scrutiny in terms of budgets and financial perameters that may or may not be there (now). I think the budget went up 10-million bucks the year I was fired as a manager," said Keenan, who planned on building around centre Olli Jokinen and star goaltender Roberto Luongo but dealt the latter when financial negotiations failed.

"I know that we were either at the lowest or second-lowest in the conference if not the league in terms of budget at that time.

"Hopefully they're confident enough that the marketplace will turn around and support the budget they're working ... At the time, coming out of the lockout, it was tough for an ownership group because they didn't get the fanbase they had anticipated. I respect what they were doing but it's difficult in those circumstances to put a team on the ice that maybe you'd like."


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