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Keenan, Sutter headline coaching changes in the NHL this season

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Iron Mike is back, Claude Julien wasn't unemployed long, John Paddock got a promotion and Brent Sutter injects new blood into the NHL's head coaching ranks.

Of the four coaching changes heading into the 2007-08 season, Mike Keenan landing with the Calgary Flames is the most intriguing while Sutter's arrival in the league is the most heralded.

NHL clubs had been wooing Sutter for the last two years because of both his success as an NHL player and as a coach in the junior leagues. It was the New Jersey Devils who reeled Sutter in.

The 45-year-old from Viking, Alta., essentially replaces Julien, who was fired with three games left in the regular season last April.

GM Lou Lamoriello was the Devils' interim coach for the playoffs while Julien was hired by the Boston Bruins.

Bryan Murray switched offices in Ottawa to become the GM and promoted Paddock from assistant to head coach of the Stanley Cup finalists.

The Devils' defensive, disciplined style of play fits Sutter's philosophy.

His 19-0-1 record coaching Canada's junior hockey team to two gold medals and an unbeaten record in the recent eight-game Super Series against Russia was a result of that strategy.

Sutter instantly had the respect of junior players because of his accomplishments during a 17-year NHL playing career, during which he won two Stanley Cups and represented his country in three Canada Cups and a world championship.

Gaining the ear of more jaded NHL players may prove a challenge for him.

"I know it's the greatest league in the world, yet I believe in the way I coach," Sutter said. "I know I'm dealing with men and not young men, but I also believe those men have to be structured and be disciplined within a program too. They need leadership like anybody else.'

"The ones who will follow, will follow and the ones who won't, it'll just go by the wayside and changes will be made."

Sutter's brother Darryl created a stir when the Calgary Flames' GM replaced Jim Playfair after one season with Mike Keenan.

Given Keenan's demanding reputation, the move could either get more out of a team that underachieved on the road last season, or cause the Flames to self-destruct. There seems to be little middle ground when it comes to Keenan.

"I think he brings a veteran leadership that, with a young coach last year, maybe we didn't have that experience, being through all the different challenges," Flames right-winger Craig Conroy said. "Mike brings that now."

Here's a look at the head coaching changes in the NHL this season:

Mike Keenan, Calgary Flames

Keenan's last head-coaching gig was pre-lockout with the Florida Panthers. He abruptly resigned as GM of the club in September 2006.

His uncompromising style may help the Flames avoid the early season doldrums that have marked their last two campaigns.

The 57-year-old from Bowmanville, Ont., might also get more out of the club on the road which was Calgary's downfall last season.

"You can tell there's definitely an intensity there and that's similar to Darryl," captain Jarome Iginla said.

Keenan has coached teams to four Stanley Cup finals and won the trophy with the New York Rangers in 1994. The Flames are his eighth team in a career that has spanned 23 seasons.

Brent Sutter, New Jersey Devils

Sutter is no less of a hockey hard man than Keenan although Sutter doesn't have the latter's volatile reputation.

Sutter demands his teams be defensively responsible and mistake-free and his teams are usually superior on special teams, particularly on the penalty kill.

While Sutter skips the minor leagues to go directly from junior to the NHL, he'll carry himself like a veteran coach.

"It doesn't look like he's impressed at all to be where he is," goaltender Martin Brodeur said. "He feels comfortable to be in the position that he's in.

"As players, that's what you like, a guy that lived the NHL life and lived what it takes to be a winner. Definitely with Brent we have that."

Sutter had a knack for getting the most out of his junior teams and his challenge now is to take what looks right now to be a Devils team that will merely make the playoffs, to a Stanley Cup contender.

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John Paddock, Ottawa Senators

Paddock returns as an NHL head coach for the first time since 1995 when he held that job with the Winnipeg Jets and compiled a 106-138-37 over four seasons.

The 54-year-old from Oak River, Man., was also the Jets' GM until 1996.

But he's been Bryan Murray's assistant coach the last two seasons and intends to carry on Murray's work.

When a team reaches the Stanley Cup final and has a shot at finishing the job the next season, tinkering requires a delicate hand.

"The deep-rooted things on how you play the game, how you see things, we're pretty much the same on," Paddock said of Murray. "We're not going to drastically switch lines. It will be subtle little things."

Murray joked that Paddock wouldn't yell at the on-ice officials as much as he did.

"That might help our team, too," Murray said.

As for the players, they expect much of the same under Paddock with perhaps a little more sweat on non-game days.

"Practices are going to be much more skating," captain Daniel Alfredsson said.

Claude Julien, Boston Bruins

Julien has the most fixing to do of the four coaches with new teams as he has to build chemistry where there was none while getting a Bruins team that gave up 70 more goals than they scored to tighten up on defence.

He's the third coach of GM Peter Chiarelli's 16-month tenure and the 47-year-old from Blind River, Ont., wants to make the team meaner, particularly on the forecheck.

Chiarelli believes there's a stern interior under Julien's upbeat demeanour that can unite the Bruins.

"I know a lot of guys are looking for a screamer,"' Chiarelli said upon hiring Julien. "He's not, but he's a very passionate guy and disciplined. He demands accountability. You may not see it in the media, but he demands it."

The Bruins had the third-worst record in the Eastern Conference last season even though the club had signed high-end free agents Zdeno Chara and Marc Savard.

The franchise has young players on the verge of cracking the parent club and Julien's success at the junior and AHL levels was another reason to hire him.

The Devils abruptly fired Julien with just three games left in the regular season last April, even though the Devils were first in the Atlantic Division and had the second-best record in the Eastern Conference at the time.

Lamoriello's rationale was the team wasn't ready for the playoffs and the Devils lost in the second round under him as interim coach.

Boston is Julien's third NHL club. The Montreal Canadiens' 41-30-7-4 record under him in the pre-lockout season of 2003-04 was the club's best in 10 seasons. Julien was fired midway through 2005-06 when the Habs were 19-16-6.

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