Keenan needs to bury Flames hatchet

Mike Keenan. (AL CHAREST/QMI Agency file photo)

Mike Keenan. (AL CHAREST/QMI Agency file photo)

STEVE MACFARLANE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:57 PM ET

CALGARY - Hours after Mike Keenan's interview, the talk took on a life of its own.

Volunteering his voice -- unsolicited -- to the morning show on Sportsnet 960, the former Calgary Flames coach used the forum to vent a little more about the way he left town.

Fired following his second season behind the Flames bench, after a first-round loss to the Chicago Blackhawks, Iron Mike didn't talk to the media on his way out of town.

But he's since subtly taken jabs at the team, suggesting it was the rash of injuries before his ouster at the hands of the eventual Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks that led to his demise.

His biggest accomplishment Wednesday morning, however, was to stir up the idea the Flames ownership group is to blame and not his former buddy/Flames GM Darryl Sutter.

"When I went in to talk to Darryl Sutter, when he fired me, he said, 'If you didn't have the injuries, you'd still be coaching,' " Keenan told Dean Molberg, a.k.a. Boomer. "So I said, 'Why are you firing me?' He said, 'I'm not firing you, the owners are firing you.'

"I'm taking Darryl for his word," Keenan added, naming owner Murray Edwards and president Ken King as his suspected assassins.

This poses a couple of problems.

First, you have to take Keenan at his word -- and he certainly has had an axe to grind when it comes to the Flames. He admitted as much later in the conversation.

"I'm still disappointed the way I was dismissed in Calgary," he said when asked if he'd put his name out there for any potential coaching jobs this summer. "It wasn't necessary.

"For that reason, I'd like to finish my career on a more positive note if I could, but I'm certainly not expecting anyone to call me at this point."

Second, you'd have to buy in to the idea Darryl Sutter -- one of the most intimidating, strongly opinionated men in the league -- would have done something simply because someone told him to do it.

"Whether it was Darryl or not, maybe he didn't want to tell me what he was thinking, I don't know," Keenan said later, backtracking a bit. "But that is what he did tell me. I'm assuming he told me the truth."

Even if it was true, and the Flames ownership group has its mitts firmly planted in the proceedings -- who cares?

If you were forking over hundreds of millions of dollars in salaries and overhead costs to run an NHL franchise, why shouldn't you have a say in what happens?

For the record, the Flames say they allow their hockey executives to operate the club as they see fit, without interference. So far, no GM has come out to say otherwise.

"We hire specialists and professionals to do their job, and our role is to provide them with the opportunity and the resources to execute their jobs. That's it," King said over the phone late Wednesday afternoon.

"It's important that they're permitted to do their jobs and given the best opportunity to succeed at their jobs."

When they fail -- as Sutter ultimately did -- they're shown the door.

So are coaches.

And regardless who makes that decision, whether it's the GM or the GM's boss, or the GM's boss's boss, the men shelling out all the money are ultimately accountable for the successes and failures of their franchise.

To think that Buffalo Sabres owner Terry Pegula can fly to defenceman Robyn Regehr's summer retreat and be considered a hero for his efforts, and that the face of the Flames ownership group, Murray Edwards, is suddenly being villainized for allegedly taking too much of an interest in the inner-workings of his team borders on insanity.

Even Keenan said it's "pretty normal" in today's game for owners to be actively involved because deals involve "great deals of large sums of money."

But in a Canadian hockey hotbed that's hosting a team that continues to disappoint, the anger eventually makes its way to the top.

And that's how frustrated Flames fans have become after a third straight spring without playoff hockey.

steve.macfarlane@sunmedia.ca

On Twitter: @SUNMacfarlane


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