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Flames fire Mike Keenan after two seasons

by John Kreiser /
Calgary Flames General Manager Darryl Sutter announced Friday that coach Mike Keenan has been relieved of his duties.

Keenan, 59, became the Flames' coach on June 14, 2007, replacing Jim Playfair. In their two seasons under Keenan, the Flames went 88-60-16 and twice made the playoffs -- but were eliminated in the first round both times. Calgary finished second to Vancouver in the Northwest Division after leading the division for most of the season and was fifth in the Western Conference in 2008-09. But the Flames were eliminated by the Chicago Blackhawks in six games in the opening round.  Last spring, they  fell to San Jose in seven games.

At least one Flame thought the decision was a good one.

“I think it was the right decision,” defenseman and alternate captain Robyn Regehr told on Friday evening. “I feel that Mike had given all he could to the team, and we were still underachieving, (given) the players we have on the team.

“Someone has to take the fall. Sometimes it’s players being traded away. Sometimes it’s coaches being let go.”

Keenan, who had one year remaining on his contract, said following the playoff loss to Chicago that he believed he would be back to finish his deal.

"I have another year left on my contract," Keenan said. "My expectation is to be here to fulfill my contract."

But center Craig Conroy said there was a feeling around the club that a change was in the offing.

“When we got knocked out in the first round this year, you got a feeling that something was going to change,” Conroy, the club’s elder statesman, told "We wanted to get by the first round and really make a run deep in the playoffs. That’s what Mike was brought in to do. The players who are here, we were all supposed to do that. And when you fall short, two years in a row to lose in the first round.

“I really like Mike,” added Conroy. “I thought he did a good job. But people in Calgary weren’t happy. They wanted something to happen, and unfortunately Mike was the one who took the brunt of it.”

That didn't happen. "Our team did not meet expectations,” Sutter said in a statement. “Following detailed evaluation over the past three weeks, and taking into consideration all factors affecting our season ending result, we believe this is a necessary change required to allow our team to continue toward our objective of winning the Stanley Cup."

The Flames have scheduled a news conference for Tuesday afternoon. The team said Keenan's assistants -- Playfair, Rich Preston, Rob Cookson and Daniel Marcoux -- "remain subject to further review and evaluation."

Calgary was Keenan's eighth stop as an NHL coach. He's won one Stanley Cup, with the New York Rangers in 1994. His 672 career victories are fourth on the all-time list. correspondent Todd Kimberley contributed to this report
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