Fired up fans mad at Mike

STEVE MACFARLANE

, Last Updated: 8:56 AM ET

If Mike Keenan is feeling the heat as head coach of the Calgary Flames, he's keeping his cool.

With just a couple of wins in his last seven games, a league-high 62 goals against that gives his Flames the third worst average per game so far and a team that's only constant since he took the reins last year has been its inconsistency, this hockey-mad city seems just plain mad at Keenan.

Tune in to the radio and you can hear fans begging for him to be fired.

Log on to an Internet fan forum and you'll see posts suggesting replacements.

Keenan knows from personal experience no job is safe in the NHL. He's already seen Denis Savard turfed by the Chicago Blackhawks six games into the season and Barry Melrose sent packing by the Tampa Bay Lightning a month into his tenure.

"That's part of the industry, but it's an unfortunate part because if you're able to step back and gain some perspective on what this league is all about right now, it's about what Mr. Bettman (NHL commish Gary) tried to achieve -- having a lot of good teams," Keenan said yesterday.

Keenan's Flames were in a three-way tie for first in the Northwest Division yesterday afternoon. It makes talk of firing Keenan seem silly.

He may not be too comfortable, but he's not showing signs of worry, either.

"I never make any assumptions about that part of the game. I just try to do my job. I try to help the team as much as I can," Keenan said.

"That's all I focus on. I don't spend my time dealing with the other aspects of the industry because that's not for me, that's not my job. My job is to try to make the team better."

More of a motivator than a tactician, Keenan will have to lean heavily on his players and assistant coaches to do that. It's got to start with the goals-against problem -- a reflection of the skaters more than the goaltenders.

"I think it is fixable. We're going to work on fixing it," said Flames captain Jarome Iginla, who often talks to his head coach about the team.

"We talk. And we've had meetings as a group. We had one again (yesterday) about where we're at, where our game is and things we need to buckle down on again right away."

Iginla says the Flames are not panicking.

They know there's an urgency to improve, however, as the standings will begin to show more separation over the next month and a half.

Continue to play the way they have the last couple of weeks and the Flames will fall behind rather than climb.

If that happens, you have to believe Keenan's job is on thin ice.

"Well, we know the expectations are really high here, and we have to get better as a group to meet the expectations that we have of ourselves," said Keenan. "It's addressing the need to work every day to improve, as individuals and collectively as a team."

It's the hard work that seems to be missing in most of the recent losses.

And when a team being led by a motivator seems to be lacking motivation, the fan anger is understandable.

The temperature is rising, whether Keenan is feeling it yet or not.


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