After a 3rd consecutive exit in the first round of the playoffs, Flames GM Darryl Sutter made a statement by firing head coach Mike Keenan.
“Iron” Mike Keenan was brought in for a 3-year contract after replacement head coach Jim Playfair showed Flames fans that he was totally incapable of leading the team to any success in the post-season during the 2006-2007 season.
Keenan managed to break the team’s problem of “respect for the coach” that seemed to plague them after Sutter stepped out of the coach’s role to focus on being a GM. But Keenan was not able to take the team to the next level, despite having a highly-talented team that featured one of the best Captains in the NHL, a top-5 goaltender and a pure “shutdown” defenceman paired up with one of the best offensive d-men in the league.
Surely the Keenan-lovers out there (do these people actually exist?) will argue that the team was destroyed by injuries down the stretch and were forced to play without key players when home-ice advantage was on the line… But there is no disputing that the Flames failed to hit the 100 point barrier again as they finished another season out of the top spot in the NW Division.
The Flames’ faithful will be looking for Darryl Sutter’s brother Brent to take the Head Coach role, but they will also be looking for more dramatic changes to the coaching staff, including the Flames parting ways with assistant coaches Jim Playfair and Rich Preston who don’t seem capable of coming up with offensive and/or defensive systems that compete in the “new NHL”.
If the Flames are to compete for a top spot in the west (and the NHL) next season, they will need a coaching staff that is capable of developing a plan that uses their skill, speed and toughness to their advantage. The future success of the team relies on the coaches’ ability to create a team system that focuses on their combined strengths, not just their toughness.
This is, after all, the “new NHL”.