Lemaire would be great fit

STEVE MACFARLANE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:33 AM ET

Unless Brent Sutter somehow wiggles his way out of a contract with the New Jersey Devils, the next head coach of the Calgary Flames is going to have an even shorter shelf life than Jim Playfair.

Keeping the bench warm for Brent is all next year's new bench boss would be doing.

Of course, that's assuming general manager Darryl Sutter does what so many believe needs to be done and turfs current head coach Mike Keenan.

Sutter has had a few days to reflect on his team's fourth straight first-round playoff exit.

He might be using that time to ponder a new leader for his players.

Expected to address the media sometime Monday, Sutter wouldn't surprise anyone if he cut Keenan loose.

The question is who comes in if Iron Mike isn't back as he said he believed he'd be for the final season on a three-year contract?

While many would jump at the chance to coach a team with as much talent as the Flames -- on paper if not in practise over the past few post-seasons -- few would keep their hands in the air if told it would be a one-year deal.

He'd have to be a little crazy.

Jacques Lemaire would be perfect.

Formerly of the Flames' Northwest Division foe Minnesota Wild, Lemaire has often been accused of having a couple of screws loose.

He's also a great coach.

And just what this team needs after struggling to return to the defensive roots that in 2004 got it past the first round in its first playoff appearance in eight years.

Winning the 2003 Jack Adams Trophy as the league's best coach, Lemaire is famous for playing the trap.

Sutter has always preached stifling defence himself -- the GM, not the homesick brother so many believe is destined to coach the Flames one day in the not-too-distant future.

It's the reason former assistant Playfair was handed the reins when his predecessor went into full-time general manager mode.

But the goals-against have ballooned since Sutter left the bench, climbing steadily since Miikka Kiprusoff helped them claim the William Jennings trophy in 2005-06.

Playfair's contract is up, and there's little reason to think he'll stick around in Calgary for any job title after going from assistant to head to associate in consecutive years.

As hard as the current staff works, none come to mind as capable of taking on the role as an ultimate decision-maker.

Craig MacTavish would certainly make a splash going from the Edmonton Oilers to the Flames to see the Battle of Alberta from the other side, but beyond the discomfort the simple idea may create, he doesn't really fit the mould in Calgary.

Pat Quinn might be tapped for a general manager job somewhere in the league, and although he's stated a desire to return as a coach, he's not the kind of guy who does what he's told.

He needs authority.

Darryl Sutter's semi-annual appearances in the locker-room might rub Quinn the wrong way.

Peter Laviolette? His system was fun to watch in the fire-wagon Eastern Conference. Not so stable on the back end.

Marc Crawford? Most believe Todd Bertuzzi will be back, and as entertaining as the idea of a reunion between those two is, we'll leave it alone.

Financially, it makes most sense to leave Keenan in place.

Truth is, his assistants do a lot of the work anyway.

Paying him to do nothing for another year on top of a new coach's salary after spending the season so close to the salary cap that the Flames had to play shorthanded for the final week isn't the smartest way to do business.

Let's face it. It's Darryl Sutter's show in Calgary.

Keenan gets it, and it's why he got the job in the first place.

So if not Brent, not next year, then how about Duane?

Already the team's director of player development, Duane could hold the fort until Brent arrives.

There'd be some sort of poetic justice in it with Keenan replacing Duane on the Florida Panthers bench in 2002.

And hey, Darryl himself could return to dual roles.

But that's about as likely as Brent getting away from the Devils this season.


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