Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Mad Mike Moves On

Is anyone really surprised that Mike Keenan got the boot and/or resigned as the Florida Panthers' general manager? Two things that have been constants in Mad Mike's career: 1) he's willing to make the big move, no matter how controversial, and 2) he'll eventually get fired for it.

After trading one of the best, young goaltenders in the planet then signing a 41-year old coming off back surgery to replace him, you just knew this was coming.

As could be expected, everyone involved is saying the right thing. (Well, everyone except for Keenan, who hasn't come out and said anything at all.)

From the Miami Herald (link via Off Wing Opinion):

''I'm excited,'' said Martin, who was instrumental in getting Keenan hired back after the Panthers fired him as coach on Nov. 8, 2003.

''Looking where our team is, and to see the work done in the offseason, I'm excited to do both jobs. Our hockey team is in good position. . . . When you look at our hockey club now, it's much better than when we started two years ago.''

Owner Alan Cohen is said to have tried to talk Keenan out of leaving. According to Martin and Yormark, Keenan went to Cohen last week and expressed his desire to move on. Cohen asked him to wait and see if his feelings changed. They apparently didn't.

Cohen then asked Martin if he would be interested in doing both jobs after speaking with Keenan.

''Mike has done a tremendous job over the past two years in positioning this franchise for immediate and future success,'' Cohen said in a statement released by the team. ``He has assembled the most talented team in our franchise's history, and he has continued our commitment to drafting, developing and signing our players.''
Which begs the question - why did Keenan then leave?

Darren Dreger (TSN) speculates:

On Sunday, the Florida Panthers issued a press release announcing Mike Keenan's resignation. However, sources close to the Panthers say Keenan did not resign, and given the financial implications, it seems implausible.

Keenan has three years remaining on a contract that owes him millions of dollars. It's unlikely he would walk away from that by quitting.

It's no secret his history with Panthers owner Alan Cohen has been unstable. In fact, according to one source, if the status of his departure is changed from a resignation to a termination, this would mark the third such occasion he was fired by Cohen.

Keenan was fired as Florida's head coach in 2003 before being asked to return to manage just six months later.

Sources say Cohen also decided to dismiss Keenan following the signings of veteran NHLers Gary Roberts and Joe Nieuwendyk in 2005, but cooler heads prevailed.
So does Bruce Garrioch (Ottawa Sun):

"Jacques won the power struggle and Keenan was fired," said a league source. "Keenan would never voluntarily leave the job. This announcement was to save face."

Sources say Keenan wasn't given much choice but to walk away from the five-year deal he signed with the club in May, 2004. But all sides -- including owner Alan Cohen -- were saying all the right things yesterday when it was announced that Martin, the former Senators coach, will become the only man with in the NHL with a dual role.


But sources said this day has been coming for a long time. Martin and Keenan have been sniping about personnel decisions for the last year. Keenan had attempted to make deals, but wasn't going to make a trade if Martin wasn't going to put the players on the ice.


Indications are things have been messy in Florida since midway through last season. There is talk Keenan considered firing Martin and stepping behind the bench himself. Sources say Martin got wind of the rumour and since then their relationship has been frosty at best.

The final straw may have been the Roberto Luongo fiasco. The relationship between Luongo and the club turned ugly when Martin fired goalie coach Clint Malarchuk before training camp last season and brought in former Senators assistant Phil Myre.

Sources say Luongo never agreed with the decision and that's when the chances of him reaching a new deal were all but toast.

There also have been whispers around the league that Martin wasn't completely thrilled with the decision by Keenan to send Luongo to Vancouver for rugged winger Todd Bertuzzi, goalie Alex Auld and defenceman Bryan Allan. The Panthers also signed free-agent goalie Ed Belfour and defenceman Ruslan Salei.
But maybe the biggest clue is in the Panthers' short press release about the move, the first sentence of which reads:

The Florida Panthers announced today that General Manager Mike Keenan has resigned his position in order to pursue other career opportunities. (bold added)
Toronto anyone?

Comments/Questions: Feel free to post in the comments section or email me at gocanucksgo10 (at) hotmail (dot) com.

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posted by J.J. Guerrero, 6:30 AM


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