Coyotes fire play-by-play guy

PAUL FRIESEN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 1:29 PM ET

So the Phoenix Coyotes have their worst season since they left Winnipeg, and what do they do?

They fire the play-by-play guy.

Taking away Curt Keilback's microphone after 27 years with the organization is one of those head-scratchers that leaves you wondering if this franchise can do anything right anymore.

At this rate those years as the Winnipeg Jets will look downright brilliant, by comparison.

After failing to win a single playoff series their first six years in Phoenix, the Coyotes have missed the playoffs the last four.

This past season they hit a new low, ranking 29th of 30 teams with 67 points.

The higher-ups responded by canning much of the front office last month. Understandable moves, when you look at the record.

But that's when things got loopy.

Someone upstairs decided well-respected media relations boss Rich Nairn had to go, too. Nairn was one of the few holdovers from the Jets days.

Late last week, Keilback was called in and told his mike was being shut off for good.

"I was shocked and disappointed," Keilback told the Arizona Republic. "I believed I was just going into a meeting to discuss next year. Twenty-seven years just seem to have gone up in smoke."

A native of Yorkton, Sask., Keilback began his career when the Jets joined the NHL in 1979, calling 2,395 games.

At 58, "Sod," as he was known here, was still considered one of the best in the business. Four years ago, he switched from radio to TV broadcasts without missing a beat.

If their TV ratings were bad, the Coyotes might want to look at the quality of their team, not the play-by-play guy.

PRODDING PENNER: Anaheim Ducks boss Randy Carlyle made some interesting comments about Winkler product Dustin Penner the other day.

The 23-year-old Penner seemed to become the prime target of Carlyle's acid tongue this season.

"Tough love," is how Carlyle described his approach with the big winger. "He came in this year and there were all of these things that were supposed to be accomplished, and there was a point in the season he wasn't accomplishing anything."

In other words, Penner's 29-goal rookie campaign in southern California wasn't all sunshine and lollipops.

For a time the 6-foot-4, 245-pounder carried the worst plus-minus rating on the team. But he finished a reasonable minus-2.

"He's a big man that really has not grown into the size of his body in a lot of aspects," Carlyle said. "The hugest hurdle he has to overcome is actually finding out how good he can be and how much more he has to give, because a lot of things have come rapidly to him in the last little while."

No kidding. From a small college in North Dakota to the NHL -- in four years?

Not bad for a guy who couldn't make the Manitoba Junior League.

Getting on certain players is nothing new to Carlyle.

When he was here he was all over Greg Pankewicz, a big, talented player who never seemed to reach his potential.

These days Pankewicz is toiling in the Central League.

No doubt Carlyle wants to keep Penner off a similar road.

"He needs to be reminded on a day-to-day basis of where he's at and how he got here," Carlyle said. "When I do get on him, it's because he's not doing those things."

THUMBS UP: Scott Arniel might have made his best move as Moose head coach when he replaced Drew MacIntyre with Wade Flaherty in goal the other day.

It's a must-win playoff game, and you insert a guy, mid-game, who hadn't played in eight weeks?

Gutsy. And brilliant, when it works.

You can be the most sound coach in the world, but there's nothing like a good instinct.

Apparently, Arniel's got it.


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