The Keenan Interview

 

 

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.  

  • NateBaldwin

    keenan also takes special care to lash out at giordano (or a defensman that appears to be gio) in that interview. i’m not sure what happened between those two but there seems to be some exceptionally hard feelings….

      • Jeff Lebowski

        from keenan (re:phaneuf) “He certainly had more upside than another defenseman that I was coaching and he’s a guy that needs a lot of direction and you need to be firm him but he can give you minutes and results offensively.”

        i took that “other defenseman” to be gio. who, btw, has one less goal than dion this year in about 20 less games. and, personally, i think gio plays a much smarter brand of hockey that will ultimately give him more “upside” than dion (who has an off-target BULLET). i’m not sure i think keenan gets it.

        but that’s just me.

    • BobB

      Really? I didn’t get that sense. Or maybe I zoned out and missed it, but I didn’t hear anything about Gio or even eluding to it.

      I certainly got that about Kipper:

      “You have a, uh, uh, a winning goalie… I don’t know if he’s been a superstar…but he can certainly win you games. And maybe that’s the reason they are even close to the playoffs” (Which in fairness is likely accurate, but I got the sense he was watching his words)

      There is no hiding the fact that Kipper was unusually poor under Keenan, and Keenan has previously said that if Kipper was himself the Flames would have been a great team.

      In the three years under Brent, Kipper has been .924evsv%, his career in Calgary is .925evsv%.

      with Keenan he was .913 (and four and three years younger)

      Whether it was Kipper, or Keenan, or both, there is no separating the overlap of brutal play and Keenan as coach. It’s compelling anyway, whether it’s a lark or the truth.

  • NateBaldwin

    Well that about settles it for me. If I’m not satisfied with the changes made this offseason, I’ll start investing my money and time into a different organization. If the flames stagnate because ownership gauges the success of the franchise in terms of revenue rather than on ice product, then the only thing I can do is stop contributing to revenue. It’s unfortunate that my contribution, or lack thereof, is negligible, but if it’s all you can do, then it’s all you can do.

  • RexLibris

    I think this is a common element to most owners, and some just recognize it quickly enough to stay the heck away from their “pet projects”.

    Most owners buy the teams because they are fans, at some level, and want the thrill of being the owner of their object of fandom. Look at all of the musings that we, as fans of various teams, offer up here. The difference between Murray, Katz, Ilitch, and the rest of us is about sixteen zeroes at the end of their bank statements.

    It shouldn’t surprise anyone that an owner tries to get involved in the team and that their decisions aren’t always wise, or even what would generally be considered mature.

    There were stories about the EIG in Edmonton and some of the minority owners trying to get players to come out to social functions or wanting to crash the dressing room after a game. It sounds pretty juvenile, but class amongst certain social classes isn’t always a given.

    As for making impetuous and unwise decisions, before Katz landed on the idea of rebuilding this team from the ground up (and he was the first member of the organization to publicly use the term “rebuild” months before Tambellni or Lowe ever did) he tried to get the team to land the “big star” first in Hossa and then in Heatley. In retrospect those were both bad decisions, but perhaps there is something in the psychology of a successful entrepeneur that doesn’t necessarily translate well to the world of sports ownership.

    A look at the ownership of Manchester United, and countless other EPL teams will tell you that there is sometimes a disconnect as to how these people make their money and the foolishness with which they depart from it.

    All that aside, the Keenan interview may be a watershed moment in the history of the Flames in their current “Iginla” chapter (1996 to present). I’m not sure how much play the interview is getting in Calgary, and maybe the Easter weekend will help to blunt some of the response, but if the fans were to turn on Murray and, as has been so often mentioned here, vote with their feet (next season, of course) then perhaps there will be action taken.

    My own opinion of this is that the timing is terrible for this kind of revelation. The off-season approaches when fans can flip the breaker and start a new season, there are a tonne (metaphorically) of free agents leaving that will allow the team to suggest that they have re-made the roster, they can scapegoat the departing UFAs, and the draft will distract fans with a shiny new bauble to add to the prospect pool before they roll out Baertschi and see how jersey sales respond. And if Feaster can land a significant free agent, then the ownership and management really gets a reprieve.

  • Keenan was 36-54-18 in Vancouver despite a stacked line-up (Pavel Bure, Alexander Mogilny, Mark Messier, Trevor Linden, Markus Naslund, Bryan McCabe, Todd Bertuzzi, etc).

    The year after he coached Boston to an 18th place finish they finished 2nd over-all.

    Florida? 45-73-35. That’s with Roberto Luongo and Pavel Bure (for the first bit). They had four straight 85+ point seasons once he left.

    I never understood why he was given another opportunity, but I thought it at least meant Calgary would be much improved (after he left). But they weren’t.

  • NateBaldwin

    Players are not going to sign here a lot quicker than we realize under that set up. Why bother trying to negotiate a contract with the GM of a team when he isn’t even calling the shots. We are not going to have a half decent chance at attracting decent GMs, Coaches or Scouts if what Keenan is saying is true as well if its being run straight from the top by King et al. Why would any half decent GM, Coach or Scout want to come here if their opinions mean shit anyways and King and all just make their own decisions and tell people how the team should run and who to sign/trade.

    I have less and less hope for this off season the more and more I hear about who’s running this organization(not Feaster thats for sure).

  • Mitch2

    This article highlights probably my single greatest fear as a Flames fan. Murky as the rumors may be, you get the sense that enough smoke over so many years means there has to be substance to them.

    It means to me the team will probably never make the kind of rise other teams with true hockey operations squads in place will. The Flames are also an ownership collective instead of one man which makes critical decisions even more inhibited.

    Although Edwards often takes the personification of “owner” he isn’t the only voice at the table. That petrifies me that they may see keeping Iggy as a fun golf partner in the off-season may be more important than making the playoffs to them.

    These kind of billionaires see the Flames as a toy, it is as much about their status in the community as winning. They may be more concerned about having Jarome at their favorite charity fund-raiser than doing what is best for the team.

    The worst part? There is nothing any of the fans and all the way up to Jay Feaster can even do about it.

    • Mitch2

      Well of course there is something fans can do. Stop going to games. Stop buying Flames merchandise. Stop watching Flames games on TV. Stop listening to the FAN960.

      Unfortunately I have the feeling that there’s enough people in Calgary now that no matter how badly the team fares, there’s always enough demand to keep the seats filled. Sorta like the Leafs. They stopped being a real hockey team a long time ago and are more focused on the profit motive.

  • Mitch2

    As far as Keenan’s comments. I think certain player’s voice reach ownership and they are the strongest voices of all.

    More powerful than the GM.

    If Kipper or Iggy complained about Keenan directly to Ownership, the word would come down to Sutter to fire him.

    In short, who is running the Flames? The players and that is fine if you have results but you know what, the results aren’t there… Does anyone care?

    Good question…

  • Mitch2

    huckster = lawyer

    The problem with owners being involved in hockey matters, other than setting budgets, or giving approval for contracts over a certain dollar amount or term is that they dont have the experience or connections to be making decisions.

    The irony in the above statement is that I am full of opinions on what is wrong with the club and what we need to do to fix it. Growing up playing and watching hockey is very different than being a “hockey” guy so I am not sure that I am any more qualified than Edwards/King to be running the hockey clubs long term and short term strategy.

    I would hope that Feaster has certain levels of authority that he is able to do but like any company goes up the chain when it comes to contracts (signing or trading) that exceed certain dollar or term thresholds.

    There are fans out there who subscribe to the EKF (Edwards-King-Feaster) strategy that aging stars and a roll of the wheel of chance are perfectly acceptable methods for trying to make the playoffs and win the Stanley Cup. And all one has to do is look at the trade history of Mike Milbury and history of Doug Maclean with Columbus to know that there are really stupid hockey people out there.

    The problem that I have is not neccessarily that the Flames have an oilman, newspaperman, and lawyer running the organization. Its that they refuse to look at the results from the last few years and recognize that what they are doing is not working. If their plan was successful than all the power to them to continue down that same path. But when it fails you need to evaluate and make changes to get things back in order.

    The failure of the young guns era was not that we failed to retain our star players until they retired, it was that we drafted like crap, we developed our picks even worse, and when we traded we tried to straddle the fence between now and the future instead of maximizing the future returns. The fact that the young guns era failed should not be a deterant for the EKF group decision that the only way they can win now is to keep its stars playing until they die and to throw big bales of money at available star players.

  • Mitch2

    I have no idea why my posts keep disappearing, is there like a swear filter or something on here?

    Anyways, this will have a serious impact on our ability to attract and keep talent. No one is going to negotiate a contract with Feaster knowing full well that he isn’t the one that makes the decisions. Doesn’t matter what promises Feaster makes to potential RFA/UFA guys when he isn’t the one that can keep those promises.

    It’s also going to seriously affect our ability to attract management talent as well. What GM/Coach/Scout is going to want to sign with a team where they know their opinion doesn’t matter anyways. King and Edwards are going to make their own decision anyways. So when we are looking for new GM/Coaches/Scouts what team are they going to choose when offered job oppurtunities? The team where decisions are made by people with little hockey knowledge and your voice is muted or where a team gives a crap what scouts/gms/coaches say?

    A lot of people said it was bad enough when D. Sutter was here, he ignored a lot of what scouts, etc. had to say and forged his own way. At least Sutter had some basic hockey IQ, I don’t hold that opinion of King at all.

    We make fun of how badly run the team from Dumpsville is all the time. However with the way our Franchise is headed thats something we are going to be hearing right back.

  • Mitch2

    Your post will disappear Colin if you write a long one and someone else posts after you started writing. Its happened to me too…

    The best approach is to write in Word or whatever and then cut and paste it in and post…

  • Graham

    Reading the posts, the fans are looking for a hockey solution to the Flame’s problem. Some magic elixir of a new coach, trade’s or free agent signings to right the once proud squad.

    It is becoming more apparant that the solution is organizational in nature. The natural relationship, or balance, between the business of hockey, and hockey operations has simply broken down.

    We need an organiztional fix first, with business people running the business, and hockey people with ‘hockey’ powers running the day to day ‘hockey’ team.

  • Greg

    Keenan also said that ownership is very involved in most franchises given the dollars involved now. I think it’s be naive to assume they weren’t and I don’t think it’s anything to worry about because it’s true almost across the board. Unless you’ve got 2 owners who can’t get along (old TB owners), or a tightwad, or a last name of Wang, it won’t have really adverse consequences. At least not anymore so than other franchises.

    And fans can do something about it. Stop buying tickets. You probably have more influence over the owner’s decisions than the GM actually. Until they show a clear direction for going forward, they’ve got my full apathy.

  • Greg

    By the way, I think Keenan showed a lot about his character in doing that interview. Going on live radio and making accusations of ownership and publicizing details of what would have been a private conversation between himself and his GM? I think he just cemented his retirement. Not a guy I’d ever offer a job too after that, which makes it such a strange move given his stated desire to coach again.

  • Maybe Iginla has finally realized he isn’t going to win a Cup in Calgary. I for one don’t see my team winning a Cup in the next 4 or 5 years and that’s about all Iginla has left in the tank. Perhaps Iginla might be open to going to management *cough cough owners* about a trade. Jarome is only going to get older from here on out so maybe it is time to trade him for what he’s worth this season.

    If Washington doesn’t make the playoffs, I envision them picking at around 12 or 13 in the draft. If we could move Iginla for one of their first round picks (maybe even both but that is highly unlikely) and then a young 20 goal scorer/25 goal scorer then I really do think we have to consider the options. Of course, I’m not familiar with the Caps’ salary cap situation but if we took back a contract of worth such as Laich or Semin I’m sure that they could fit it into their budget somehow. Just a thought. FLAMES DRAFT 2012!

    • T&A4Flames

      According to Capgeek.com, Washington has over $19mil in available cap space based on the current cap with 17 players signed. I could see them making a move for either, if not both of, Iginla and Kipprusoff.

      If that is the case, I would demand Alzner as part of the return along with a 1st for Iggy. We could take on more salary if need be or add a depth player for them but I think that could work. Maybe they could throw in the rights to Vokoun and we could get him signed for 2 years to free up a trade at the draft for Kipper. Vokoun at 2 would give Irving or Ramo etc. a chance to develop under a solid vet.

      • T&A4Flames

        My thoughts as well with Vokoun. He would definitely be a great veteran presence for Leiland & allow Irv to get in his 40+ games.
        Imagine, Wash let Semin walk, pick up Kipper & Iggy for their 2 first rounders, Alzner & a prospect. If Wash miss the playoffs or bow out in the 1st round, I see them screaming for change.

        • supra steve

          Vokoun signed a one year deal at an outrageously low $1.5mil to play in Wash last year. That makes him:
          A)a UFA
          B)a man who badly wants a chance to win a Cup
          C)a man with no interest in signing with the Calgary Flames if a better team comes calling.

          I do agree Wash could be potentially interested in either or both of our ageing superstars, especially if they miss the playoffs or fall flat in round one.

  • Was reading a lot of posts & I have to make one observation. The season still has 2 games left yet everyone is talking like nothing is going to happen this off season and it will be the status quo. Maybe we should be waiting until Sept to be jumping to some of these conclusions. Everyone knocked Feaster last year at the trade deadline for only making a goofy trade for Modin. He wasnt even the GM then, he had the interim label & I would bet $$$ had to latitude on any kind of trade. How do you blame him for no activity then. Then after our Flames had that incredible 2nd half, his hands were tied by perception of fans & media & even the players & B Sutter. The system did work, the talent was there & Calgary & New Jersey were 2 of the hottest teams in the NHL in the 2nd half. When Feaster did get control & named GM, he again had to give this group one last chance to back up what they all said in exit interviews. Being the new kid, he had no choice. But of note he still traded Langkow & Regehr. Some pretty major moves to give him some financial flexibilty in case things got bad during the year. It enabled him to eject Bourque for Cammi, which is a deal I would do all day long & twice on Sunday.
    Now, the masses & the media are hollering for big changes. For the first time he will be able to make the major personnell changes he would have gotten 2nd guessed & crucified for last summer. I guess my point is, lets not ne presumptuous & see what happens this off season leading to the draft & July 1. We just might be pleasantly suprised that this years failure will be the impetus to the change we all know needs to happen. Probably it just should have happened a lot sooner.

  • BobB

    Two things:

    1. As I see the problem with ownership interfering with hockey ops isn’t where you have big strategic ideas. “We don’t want to rebuild.” or “We are not trading our face of the franchise player.”

    Where I see the problem is when they hire people to give them hockey advice, and they either ignore it or specifically go around it. In the Keenan situation it appears that Darryl Sutter specifically did not want to fire Keenan, presumably because his hockey knowledge led him to conclude that Keenan was at least getting the appropriate result based on talent at his disposal, or at least that if the result was not commensurate with the talent it was not a coaching issue. (Whatever else we want to say about Darryl’s tenure as GM I think we can all agree his eye for hockey things is more discerning than King’s or the ownerships).

    So the ownership gave Sutter a marching order “Win now, pay what it takes”. Sutter hires and wishes to retain Keenan to carry out that order, and the uninformed, uneducated (in hockey matters) group decides to go around that advice. That is not a formula for success.

    2. As for Keenan’s coaching, if I had to distinguish between him and Sutter, it would be that I at least felt Keenan was trying to use his assets in a way that would maximize his return. Sutter always feels so much more beholden to trying to force the players to do what he thinks will work, even if all the evidence points to that utilization being suboptimal.

  • Jeff Lebowski

    What I heard were some complimentary things said about Jarome, his leadership and his desire to win here. Haven’t really seen that in any of these write ups.

    I think Keenan said Iggy needs help on the ice and that a whole slew of personnel decisions (not including Iggy) have resulted in them not even being close. That was my take on it.

  • Captain Ron

    A couple of things

    I met and spoke with Keenan at a Flames function. I was really impressed with how easy it was to talk with him and how engaging he was even with my son who was about 16 at the time. He left a very good impression on both of us. I wasn’t a big fan of him as Flames coach though and prefer Sutter over him.

    As for the comments about Phaneuf and Regehr though I can tell you they did not like each other and Reggie really didn’t like being paired with Dion because in his words he was difficult to play with. Reggie also couldn’t stand Keenan and told me that one day while we were paired at a golf tournament and spent a few hours together. He said that Keenan was one of the worst coaches he ever had and was relieved when he got canned. He made no bones about them not getting along. Ditto him and Dion.

    So when you are speculating about the other defenceman Keenan was referring to it very well may have been Regehr he was talking about.

    • RKD

      So when you are speculating about the other defenceman Keenan was referring to it very well may have been Regehr he was talking about.

      true. could also have been sarich. hell, it could’ve been anders effin’ eriksson… but it seems to me that he would have named any of those guys… i dunno. i always got the feeling keenan detested gio (probably started when he blamed #5 for an injury resulting from “taking the hit to make the play”). no matter.

  • RKD

    I heard that interview and man Keenan is one bitter dude. Before getting hired by Calgary, we would hear him complain about his departure in Florida. Hopefully, another team takes him so we don’t have to hear about his time in Calgary anymore.

    I’m not surprised the owners were the ones who fired Keenan and Darryl was the messenger. In fact, his firing was probably a bad omen for Darryl.

    Keenan became the sacrificial lamb when it was Darryl’s fault for the Flames being knocked out in the playoffs in the first round both times. Granted they played against superior competition, the Flames were 30 seconds away from taking a 3-1 series lead in game 4 against San Jose.

    Keenan definitely hates Kipper, he called Iggy a superstar then when asked about Kipper he hesitates and called him a ‘winning goalie’, it still came off with sarcasm. Keenan’s methods were a bit unusual, I don’t of any coach who refused to practice the power play. Plus if there was locker room in fighting with Dion and Reg that certainly didn’t help his matters.

  • Captain Ron

    @walkinvisible

    Yeah maybe it was Gio but I never got that impression from Regehr. My comment was based on direct questions that I asked Regehr and his answers that came across as honest and genuine and what I got out of it. Your probably right in that we will never really know for sure.

    Keenan sure sounds like a spiteful man about it all though.