The FAN960 conducted an interesting interview with Mike Keenan, apparently at the former coach’s request. Listen here.
There’s lots of interesting stuff going on here. Keenan has been uniquely vocal since being released by Calgary – this isn’t the first time he’s spoken up about the perceived unfairness of his dismissal. And fair enough – the 2008-09 iteration of the Flames was probably the best we’ve seen in the last decade (aside from Kipper’s performance). How much that had to do with the coaching and how much it had to with the mix of players is an open question. I lean more towards the latter than the former, myself.
Of course, the most relevant part of the interview is Keenan’s assertion that he was fired by Edwards/King rather than Darryl Sutter. This seemingly confirms the ever present rumors that the higher-ups are more involved in hockey ops than is usually considered healthy. Elliotte Friedman recently echoed these concerns:
A few other execs believe that if Jay Feaster had his way, he’d already have begun an aggressive rebuild of the Flames — but hasn’t had support of upper management/ownership. (Feaster denied that when I asked, and, as Oilers fans know, he’s denied it quite famously in public.) You have to believe, after the incredible disappointment of the last two weeks, things are going to change now.
For what it’s worth, I’ve heard similar whispers for years and they’ve become a bit louder ever since Jay was hired.
If true, I guess the question is – why is an overly involved upper office a concern for fans? First and most obvious, of course, is the fact that King and Edwards are not, as they say, "hockey people" so their decision making is likely to be sub-optimal when it comes to on-ice matters.
In addition, team owners have different incentive structures than coaches and GM’s – they are the unassailable presence, the proverbial kid with an ant farm. Nobody is going to fire Murray Edwards (or Ken King, apparently) and they are insulated from the consequences of their decisions because there’s always the players, the coaches or the general manager to sacrifice as scapegoats. Lots of power, limited consequences and little to no true feedback is a sure path to bad decisions – regardless of how well meaning or intelligent the people in question.
That raises the possibility that the Flames hockey ops is merely a marketing arm for the big boys up top, a facade to be appropriated and discarded when convenient. It would mean Feaster was hired more as a huckster and a frontman for the organization rather than a true manager and custodian of the team – his primary duty to justify and rationalize ownerships machinations for the paying customers.
Im talking speculation and worst case scenarios rather than reality at this point. We can’t really know what the dynamic is between King, Edwards and Feaster etc, even with rumors above.
Something to keep in mind moving forward, however.