Another Keenan Mystery
Don't expect to be able to get to the bottom of Mike Keenan's departure from the Florida Panthers.
Whenever Keenan quits an NHL team or is fired, there's always lots of smoke and flames and a sense of controversy.
But the truth behind the story never seems to come out, which has always contributed to the Keenan mystique.
That was certainly the case in the 1994 playoffs when rumours had it that while coaching the New York Rangers to the Stanley Cup, Keenan was negotiating with another NHL club, the Detroit Red Wings, and waging a vicious internal war with GM Neil Smith.
There were many moving parts in that story, from Keenan to Smith to Mark Messier to Mike Ilitch to Ranger ownership. To this day, the precise details of the story remain elusive. But Keenan moved on.
Go back further than that. In November, 1992, I remember travelling to Chicago to cover an early season game between the Blackhawks and Maple Leafs and ending up in a news conference called by Chicago owner Bill Wirtz to announce that Keenan had quit the Hawks after refusing to sign a new contract as the team's GM.
Keenan, naturally, said he'd been fired after being unable to receive assurances he would get all the responsibilities and powers usually associated with being an NHL general manager.
Later, there was a stormy, short run in St. Louis, an even shorter run in Boston and a clash with Brian Burke in Vancouver. Each time, it wasn't exactly clear why Keenan was moving on, whether he was jumping or being pushed.
Now this in Florida. A brief run, a Keenan resignation and rumours he was forced out or couldn't get along with others in the organization. Indeed, he only ended up running the show with the Panthers after surviving an internal battle with Rick Dudley.
So more mystery for Iron Mike. One interesting fact is whenever he leaves a hockey situation, a drought ensues. That's been the case with both the Rangers and Blackhawks, and after he coached Team Canada to wins in the 1987 and 1991 Canada Cups and then wasn't invited back to continue his success, Canada didn't win a best-on-best event again until the 2002 Olympics.
In the case of the Panthers, of course, the drought preceded Keenan's arrival.
The NHL coaching market, meanwhile, has rarely been so filled with available coaches with enormous success on their resumes.
Keenan is the fifth winningest coach in NHL history. Pat Quinn, also open to offers, is the fourth.
Throw in Scotty Bowman, who is No. 1, and three of the top five winningest coaches in NHL history are, at least theoretically, available for hire.
You can probably count on at least one of them being behind an NHL bench by January.