Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Stability? Panthers face a brand new era!

The Florida Panthers have made some news during the Stanley Cup final by bringing together two of the bigger names in the NHL to run their disoriented franchise. The Panthers today announced the return of Mike Keenan to South Florida as GM of the Panthers, working with him as head coach is former Ottawa Senator coach Jacques Martin.

It’s a combination that should cover all sectors of the emotional roller coaster, you have the mercurial Keenan who is best known as a hard nosed disciplinarian who has had more than a few blow outs with NHL talent over the years. Offering the kinder gentler side of hockey, the Panthers will plop Martin down in the dressing room. Martin, who at times exhibits the demeanor of a funeral director, is possibly the quietest spoken man in the NHL, a fine tactical coach his years with the Senators brought him closer and closer to the ultimate NHL prize the Stanley Cup. But as has been documented over the years, Martin could never seem to get his teams over the final hill. Many critics feel that one of his drawbacks was an unwillingness to take his players to task or punish them for their lapses. More Colin Powell than George S. Patton, Martin will be able to sit back and watch Keenan wield power as only he can.

The Keenan/Martin combo will reunite the two long time NHL survivors, who first were involved in hockey at the college level in New York State, they worked together again in Peterborough in the OHL, they shared time in Chicago when Martin was an assistant to Keenan during his reign in the Windy city. Since then the two went off in different directions, Martin coaching in St. Louis and Ottawa and Keenan’s travels have been well documented over the years, usually good for a couple of seasons before all implodes leaving nothing but rubble in many instances. Though to be fair to Keenan he did have his successes as well, four of his teams went to the finals in his first nine years as a coach, most notably in New York where the Rangers managed to win a Stanley Cup while under the Keenan watch.

Owner Alan Cohen has chosen to take the fast track approach, rather than building the team up in a slow and steady basis. So expect many changes in Miami whenever the next season gets underway and expect a few agents to get emergency calls in the next little while as Panther players wonder how they’ll fit into the Keenan universe.

Considering Keenan’s explosive history, it will be an interesting study this Florida experiment. Reportedly good friends Martin and Keenan could put together a solid franchise, or they could end up not talking to each other in a very short period of time. Regardless things are never going to be dull in Miami.

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