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Keenan ready for what prospects have in store

by Miranda Baker / Calgary Flames

First day of training camp and Calgary Flames Head Coach Mike Keenan is revved up and ready to go.

The ice is in, skates are laced and prospects have been through a number of grueling physicals and are prepared to make a good first impression.

"You get one opportunity to make a good first impression," said Keenan. "But I expect the players who have played for a year or two in the American Hockey League, who are really promising young players will step up and show us what they have."

That's not to say only the prospects who have spent some time with the Flames farm team, are the only rookies who have a fighting chance of stepping into the lineup.

According to Keenan, the coaching staff is always looking for players who stand out, no matter what level of hockey they are graduating from.

"You always try to find and hope that there's going to be a surprise somewhere," added Keenan.

"If that's one player jumping out that no one ever expected to play on the team, or it could even be a free agent walk on, those things happen, and that's a real boost to our team and organization when things like that happen."

But it's not as easy as just walking on and getting your feet wet right away. There are two things at stake according to the 57-year-old coach. First, a player has to make such an impression that coaches find it beneficial to give them the opportunity to play a game or to be looked at seriously.

Secondly, they have to displace, what would most likely be, a veteran player.

"If someone's going to lose their job they're going to fight for it," said Keenan. "If a youngster is making a big enough impression to stay there and push somebody out of a job then the dynamics only make the team more competitive and better."

All that is left is getting over those first day jitters, which Keenan understands each prospect needs to do before they can perform to their full potential.

"I think that's important for them to get in a level of comfort and then get into a competitive aspect," commented Keenan.

"We'll make evaluations based on how they're going to move forward with the other group when they arrive next week."

So what advice would the Stanley Cup winner give to up-and-comers?

"Control the things you can control. You can't be responsible for the evaluators; you can only be responsible for what you're doing on the ice," said Keenan.

"I think that if they focus on what they think their strengths are for right now, that's the best advice we can give them."

Keenan, who has spent 18 years behind the bench in the NHL, led the Philadelphia Flyers to the Stanley Cup Finals twice and the Chicago Blackhawks once before capturing the Stanley Cup with the New York Rangers in 1994.

The native of Bowmanville, ON also spent time in St. Louis, Vancouver, Boston and Florida before taking on a coaching role in Calgary this past June.

The three-time President Trophy winner's resume also includes six division titles, three All-Star Games, three 50 plus win seasons and five 100 point seasons. He is also 6th all time in NHL wins with 584.

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