Not many can say they're too surprised at the news out of Florida this weekend that Mike Keenan had stepped away from his duties as GM. Keenan's career has been full of surprising twists and turns, any number of cities have seen the Iron Mike show arrive and close, normally leaving some pretty interesting shrapnel behind to clean up.
Neil Stevens of Canadian Press provides some clues as to what led to the latest disappearance of the Keenan stamp. With thirty teams in the NHL, don't be surprised if he pops up somewhere else in rather short order.
Keenan's career takes another twist
By NEIL STEVENS
(CP) - Mike Keenan prefers doing things his way and, when that doesn't happen, he's apt to turn his back and walk away or ruffle enough feathers to be fired.
This time, he abruptly parted company with the Florida Panthers. The NHL team made public on Sunday that Keenan was out as general manager.
Conjecture has it that Keenan, who still had more than two years left on his contract, had differences of opinion on personnel with his head coach, Jacques Martin.
Because Keenan wasn't talking, it was impossible to pinpoint what actually transpired last week - whether he quit or was fired.
Martin gets the dual role of GM-head coach, denying all the while that there was any rift with his old college teammate.
"I think I've always had a good relationship with Mike," says Martin. "We've been friends for a long time and have worked together before (in Chicago).
"We spoke at length about the roster on a regular basis."
Martin was seen as instrumental in getting Keenan rehired in an executive capacity when the Panthers hired Martin as coach in May 2004. Keenan had been fired from the head coaching job in November 2003. So, it's obvious that Martin is cozy with the Panthers' front office brass - perhaps a little too cozy for Keenan's liking.
Owner Alan Cohen reportedly spoke with Keenan a week ago after the 56-year-old native of Bowmanville, Ont., told Cohen of his disenchantment over how things were going. Cohen subsequently offered Keenan's job to Martin, who quickly accepted.
The fact that Martin admitted to not having spoken with Keenan after it became clear that Iron Mike was on his way out suggests there was, at the very least, a communications breakdown between the two.
The Panthers' training camp practices begin Sept. 16 in Vail, Colo.
Given the radical roster revisions Keenan made this summer, it was only logical that he would want to stick around to see how it all panned out.
He acquired bruiser Todd Bertuzzi from Vancouver for goaltender Roberto Luongo, added goalie Alex Auld and defenceman Bryan Allen in that trade, and signed free-agent netminder Ed Belfour and defenceman Ruslan Salei.
It's his team, but he won't be there to see how it all unfolds.
The Flyers, the Blackhawks, the Rangers, the Blues, the Canucks, the Bruins and now the Panthers - Keenan has had tumultuous stints with most of them.
He parted company with the Flyers in 1988 after four years as head coach despite twice guiding them to conference titles.
He coached the Blackhawks to the Stanley Cup final in 1992, and resigned that spring after four years coaching and managing because the total control he craved wasn't forthcoming.
He coached the Rangers to their first championship in 54 years in 1994 but couldn't get along with GM Neil Smith well enough to stay for a second season.
One of the quirkier trivia tidbits from his nearly three years in St. Louis before he was fired was his refusal to allow the players to don newly designed alternate sweaters because he didn't like the way they looked.
He didn't mesh with GM Brian Burke in Vancouver and was fired, and there was a quick exit from Boston, too. In his early days with the Panthers, he and then-GM Rick Dudley engaged in power struggles. Now this.
One of the winningest coaches in NHL history is on the loose yet again, and we haven't heard the last of Mike Keenan.