Keenan gets can-did

ERIC FRANCIS, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:16 AM ET

On the eve of the Calgary Flames' first season under Brent Sutter, Mike Keenan's name has been thrown around an awful lot.

Not necessarily in a good way.

So it was only fitting the coach who choose to hide from the media all summer elected to wait until this week to make his first public comments since he was fired from the Flames in May.

And judging by what Keenan told Toronto's AM640, it's clear the 59-year-old is still as out of touch as he was while attempting to resurrect his coaching career here.

"Little impatient," said Keenan, when categorizing his ouster following a second-straight first-round loss.

"They gave Scotty Bowman four years to get a Cup in Detroit but we only had a two-year stint, and I didn't know it."

While fans have long forgotten about the cordial edition of Iron Mike who oversaw one of the league's more talented lineups the last two years, talk in the dressing room continues to revolve around the impact he had.

As in, negative impact.

According to several players, Keenan's strategy essentially amounted to little more than patting a few of the lads on the pants and urging them to "go get 'em boys."

With the game clearly having passed him by as many worried upon his hiring, Keenan simply couldn't get the players to buy wholeheartedly into any of the concepts he offered up.

The stars got their ice time whether they deserved it or not, bad penalties went relatively unpunished and the x's and o's so crucial in today's game were largely ignored.

No matter how bad it got, the powerplay wasn't practiced, depth players were rarely rewarded for exemplary play and when it mattered most -- the playoffs -- Keenan was simply out-coached.

The Flames posted an 88-60-16 record in spite of Keenan, who sent them out to play a glorified version of shinny, lacking in structure, discipline or accountability.

Those three pillars just so happen to be Sutter's strengths, which is a big part of why it appears he's been able to command the players respect from Day 1 of intense teachings and preachings.

Yet, despite the fact Keenan let a massive division lead slip away in the final month of the season, he said Tuesday he had no idea he would be fired with one year remaining on his three-year deal.

"No, I didn't -- particularly when you look at the context of the season. We had more wins than Vancouver and the last 10 games we played shorthanded and ran into cap problems and had a plethora of injuries ..." said Keenan, before reciting the admittedly long list of ailments plaguing many of his top stars down the stretch, forcing the club to dress as few as 16 of 20 skaters the final few regular-season games.

"I'm not sure if (the firing) came from (Flames president) Ken King or (Flames co-owner) Murray Edwards... there wasn't a lot of explanation. I didn't ask for one. The business part of it is unexplainable at times. You take your medicine, you move on, you try to dust yourself off and away you go."

With his son getting married and his daughter providing him with his first grandchild, Keenan likely had little problem bouncing back from his firing this summer.

After all, he's one of the league's experts on dismissals.

Despite being one of the league's winningest coaches of all time, he's now working with MSG Network and Versus and likely won't resurface as an NHL coach after failing to win a playoff round since 1996.

While surprising many by becoming popular with the media and the players while here, you'd be hard-pressed to find many who disagreed with his firing.

Which makes it all the more telling that he did.

ERIC.FRANCIS@SUNMEDIA.CA


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