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18 June 2007

Sutter brings back and old buddy...

The Flames officially named Mike Keenan head coach today, and that's not much of a surprise.

Keenan took a year off from the NHL after he was dismissed as general manager of the Panthers before the start 2006-2007 season.

He was subsequently replaced with current Panthers head coach Jacques Martin.
Rumours swirled that Keenan did not get along well with his coach, and that trading Roberto Luongo to the Canucks, rather than re-signing him, was the last straw.

Flames GM Darryl Sutter, following the Flames' 1st round loss to the Anaheim Mighty Ducks last year, stepped down as head coach of the team and gave that duty to one of his closes assistants, Jim Playfair.

However, Playfair had a very inconsistent year behind the bench, and was constantly criticized for his lack of control over he players, and his team's inability to score at critical points of the season.

After a terrible start to his first season as head coach, which saw the Flames fall to last place in the Northwest Division with only a miraculous streak being able to save them, Playfair was under hot water with the Calgary media who were getting more and more clouded about Sutter's decision to name him.

The Flames were SOOO desperate that rumours went as far as suggesting that Sutter would return as head coach...incredibly, only 30 games into the year!

But, luckily for Playfair, the Flames got that miraculous run and were the hottest team in the NHL heading into the Christmas holidays, thus saving their season and giving the team a chance to inch closer to those teams chasing a playoff spot.

The streak eventually died down, and the Flames went back to their old ways, cooling down for the last 2 months, while watching their playoff picture quickly crumble away.
With under ten games remaining, the Flames were in a dog-fight with Colorado to claim the 8th and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

It was tight, and went down to the wire.
Calgary managed to win it out and make the playoffs with a single point seperating them from the Avs.
Good thing for Playfair as well, since those rumours of Sutter taking over with only 5 games remaining in the season became increasingly possible.

Their success of beating out Colorado was short lived, and they fell to the powerful Red Wings in 6 games. Their 2 victories came at home and, yeah you guessed it, they were the only games in which they actually made an effort to show up and play.

Their loss was ugly, after an embarrassing rout in Game 5 and an overtime knuckleball getting past Miikka Kiprussoff in the pivotal Game 6, fans wanted Playfair's head on a stick, double-grilled.

Sutter got the message, and brought back one of his old buddies in Mike Keenan.

Keenan is a known quantity to Darryl Sutter, who played for the coach in Chicago and was an associate coach to Keenan in 1990-91 and 1991-92, and the Hawks went to the Stanley Cup Final in ’92. And remember, there was quite the hue and cry around Calgary to fire Larry Playfair as coach during the stretch drive of the regular season and even during the playoffs.

"We've coached with each other, against each other and for each other, all those things," Sutter said. "I can't say that I've been associated with a coach or worked with a coach that has a more focused vision than him."

"We've worked very closely together,” Keenan said. “We've been in the trenches together and when you are there together you understand and know each other very well. When I was the manager and coach and Darryl was my associate, it worked very well. We had good chemistry and I think it will work again.

Good luck to Mike, and I hope this pans out for you Flames fans!


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