Well, this is fun timing. Days after the Philadelphia Flyers fired head coach Craig Berube, news comes out that Mike Keenan wants back in the North American coaching game.
Hearing that Mike Keenan has finally decided to return in North America to coach but I don't see him making it to NHL and he won't go lower— Aivis Kalnins (@LWOSShakcc) April 20, 2015
Iron Mike -- who coached the Flyers to three Patrick Division titles and two Stanley Cup Final appearances between 1984 and 1988 -- is currently coaching Metallurg Magnitogorsk of the KHL. He led the team to the Gagarin Cup, the KHL's championship, in 2013-14.
Might the Flyers be interested in interviewing him for their vacant coaching position? Let's take a deeper look at Mike Keenan as a potential candidate.
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This is the first in "So You Want To Coach The Flyera," a series where we'll look at a bunch of different candidates for the Flyers head coaching gig. Ron Hextall says there will "be a hell of a lot" of guys considered for this job this offseason, so we're going to profile a hell of a lot of people. Let's have some fun.
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What has he accomplished as a coach?
Keenan has pretty much done it all.
He's coached eight teams in the NHL. We all know about the two Cup Final berths with the Flyers -- and for the record, he deserved to win a Cup with those Flyers teams in the 1980s, but the Edmonton Oilers dynasty of the era got in the way.
Keenan did win his Stanley Cup in 1994 with the New York Rangers, however. He coached in the Canada Cup, he qualified for the Cup Final as coach of the Blackhawks in the early 90s. He's won the Calder Cup, the Memorial Cup, and the World Championship. He's worked full time in international hockey, he's been an NHL general manager, he's worked on TV as an analyst.
Name it and Mike Keenan has probably done it.
Why is he available to be hired?
The reality is that since 1994, Keenan hasn't had much NHL success at all. He's coached five teams since then and hasn't lasted more than two full seasons with any of them. He wears thin on teams and players very quickly. When he left for Russia in 2013, there was no interest from NHL teams -- probably for a variety of reasons.
But if it's true that he wants to come back to North America, it's not for any lack of success in the KHL. After winning the Gagarin Cup in his first season behind the bench, Magnitogorsk finished seventh in the 28 team league in 2014-15, ultimately bowing out in the second round of the postseason.
What do we know about him tactically as a coach?
It's hard to gauge just what Keenan has learned in Russia, and reading interviews that he's given since he's gone over there, it seems like he's evolved a bit -- that he's mellowed since his younger days and that he's changed a bit as a coach. But it's really hard to actually know, especially because the KHL and NHL are such different places.
The one thing we do know about Keenan is that he demands perfection. He doesn't tolerate anything but 100 percent effort. His teams play a physical, grind-you-down style. From what I know of Keenan, he might be a better fit for the 1990s NHL than today. But in terms of systems and how his teams play tactically, who really knows? It's been seven years since he's coached in the NHL.
For more insight into what he thinks of his own coaching style, I'd recommend reading the chapter on Keenan here.
How does he fit with the Flyers' roster, both now and in the future?
Again, it's hard to know -- but after the firing of Craig Berube, a tough guy who controversially treated goalie Steve Mason with a ton of disrespect this season, Keenan might just turn out to be more of the same. He's certainly not a players-first guy and never has been.
But hey, maybe that's what the Flyers like. It certainly fits in with their history. When Hextall was asked about that whole Berube-Mason dust up a few weeks back, he invoked 1980s Keenan and asked "Do we want today's society to get so soft?"
I don't think that's where Hextall's brain is when he's thinking about a new coach, but maybe this quote is more telling than we think. You damn well know there are lots of people in the organization (and let's be real, in hockey generally) who do still think that way, whether Hextall is among them or not.
What are the key reservations here?
In Mike Keenan's case, look, it's plain and simple. He's a bad man, he downgrades people, he treats people like shit, and that's why he's coached eight fucking teams and managed four -- plain and fucking simple. That's why I worked to keep him out of here when there was a possibility of him being hired by Detroit. He was never a general manager; he was a coach. He had the titles, but he didn't think like a general manager. He thought like a coach.... Mike didn't like anybody on his team that was popular. He didn't like Brett Hull in St. Louis, so he rode him right out of town. So, if you were popular in the town, Mike had to be more popular.
He's a jerk, Mike Keenan. His track record to me tells it. I mean eight fucking teams, come on? What happens is at the ownership level, there are a lot of people who aren't hockey owners that made their money doing a lot of different things. That doesn't necessarily mean they understand hockey, or sports, or the dynamics of it. If they get involved and they don't understand, that's how you wind up with Mike Keenan....
As for his trading record as a GM, well you win some, you lose some. I mean Mike deals in the moment and he's made some good ones and some bad ones, but I wouldn't want it on my record that every few years, you're with another team. There's something just not right about that. I mean you either didn't get along with people or you can't work in a family-type atmosphere. It's obvious that he can't."
Is he someone that is likely to be high on the Flyers' wish list?
Keenan hasn't coached in the NHL since 2009. He has some history with the organization of course, and he coached Ron Hextall in the 80s, but it's not exactly clear how people, the general manager included, feel about Keenan today.
He lost his job in 1988 because he had worn too thin with the players. That was a long time ago, but is there any indication that things have changed with him?