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  • Keenization of Panthers is underway

    IN MY OPINION
    'Keenanization' of Panthers is under way

    DAVID J. NEAL
    [email protected]

    While the Heat trades players the way trading cards used to be and the Dolphins' depth chart gets the daily Zapruder film treatment, you might have missed the Keenanization of the Panthers.

    Perhaps you need a refresher.

    The Panthers: local National Hockey League franchise; nice collection of yet-to-mature talent -- No. 1 in The Hockey News' Future Watch two years running -- amassed as the franchise rebuilt through the draft.

    Mike Keenan: once a good coach; recently, more name recognition than accomplishments; dumped as coach in November 2003; with the sudden availability of longtime friend and respected coach Jacques Martin, jimmied his way back in as general manager in May 2004; has the owner's ear.

    What Keenanization hasn't meant so far is locking up Roberto Luongo, a Vezina Trophy (best goalie) finalist, for several years.

    Columbus and Boston did it with its franchise lynchpins, 21-year-old Rick Nash and 26-year-old Joe Thornton.

    The Panthers? They're taking Luongo to arbitration.

    NEW DEFINITIONS

    The Panthers like to say they redefined their brand during the lockout. Considering what an underpaid (for the market at the time) Luongo meant to the Panthers in 2002-03 and 2003-04, they now have redefined ``chutzpah.''

    What Keenanization has meant so far is what you would expect -- a steady march of A) big, physical forwards to pound on the forecheck and/or B) hard-nosed veterans who have won before and need little motivation beyond a coach saying, ``You're up next.''

    Thus, the free agent signings of 39-year-old winger Gary Roberts, 39-year-old center Joe Nieuwendyk, 35-year-old left wing Martin Gelinas and center/left wing Chris Gratton.

    Nieuwendyk not only has three Stanley Cups with three different teams, but a Conn Smythe Trophy (playoff MVP) with Dallas in 1999. Gelinas has been to the Cup finals with four teams.

    Roberts was with Nieuwendyk on Calgary's 1989 Cup winner and acquitted himself well in Toronto (which always means more than it should in the NHL).

    Gratton, well, he's big and strong, a decent face-off man with 11 seasons of NHL experience.

    But only one of those seasons matched the promise that made him the No. 3 overall pick in the 1993 draft. He's as maddeningly inconsistent and underachieving as former Panther Rob Niedermayer, and slower.

    NOT A BAD PLAN

    Seasoning a young team that hasn't won jack with veterans who know how to win isn't necessarily bad. Seasoning a team that isn't particularly punishing with veterans who know how to bump isn't necessarily bad.

    But veteran free agents are the salt of good teams, not the food. So, if Keenan tries to force Martin into making these guys the food, well, there could be a problem.

    Keenan needs to remember he has Nathan Horton and Anthony Stewart, two fantastic 2003 first-round picks. Stewart, with his immense bulk and speed, terrifies defensemen and has nice hands. Before getting injured halfway through his rookie season, Horton demonstrated muscle and myriad talents.

    What the Panthers don't need is Case No. 473 of an NHL coach or general manager unable to disconnect from a past era of glory.

    Keenan usually likes to bring in ''his guys,'' with whom he has won before. The problem is there aren't many of those left. Keenan really hasn't ''won'' anything since before the previous NHL lockout. Most ''Keenan guys'' long ago traded stick and skate for knife and fork. Nieuwendyk, Gelinas and Roberts are as close as he could get without going to Mark Messier.

    Except for Gratton, these are old cars that have been dormant for a year. Sometimes, old cars keep running well only if they don't stop running. An interesting question for this NHL season will be how the 35-and-over set comes back after a year outside the NHL grind.

    At least Nieuwendyk, even if his tires are bald, has ace face-off abilities that alone are worth half his $2.25 million. The grandest of former Panthers GM Rick Dudley's few failures was not addressing the Panthers inability to win a draw.

    This hurt the special teams. Entire even-strength shifts were sucked up in the cycle of frozen puck: Panthers lose the defensive zone face-off; opponent scoring chance; save and frozen; lose defensive zone face-off; scoring chance . . .

    Saving the Panthers during those cycles was Luongo. A salary cap doesn't mean you don't treat your best players well.

    Making Luongo happy should be the next step in Keenanization.
    June 9, 1973 - The day athletic perfection was defined.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k-Kva...eature=related

  • #2
    But veteran free agents are the salt of good teams, not the food.
    Ah, Mike's Achilles Heel.

    Keenan usually likes to bring in ''his guys,'' with whom he has won before. The problem is there aren't many of those left.
    I'm sure Adam Creighton, Brian Noonan, Stephane Matteau, Glenn Anderson, Yuri Khmylev, Harry York, Jim Campbell, Igor Kravchuk, Steve Leach, Charlie Huddy, and Joe Murphy could be persuaded to join Mike in south Florida.

    Moon

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    • #3
      Originally posted by Moon Man@Aug 15 2005, 08:10 AM
      But veteran free agents are the salt of good teams, not the food.
      Ah, Mike's Achilles Heel.

      Keenan usually likes to bring in ''his guys,'' with whom he has won before. The problem is there aren't many of those left.
      I'm sure Adam Creighton, Brian Noonan, Stephane Matteau, Glenn Anderson, Yuri Khmylev, Harry York, Jim Campbell, Igor Kravchuk, Steve Leach, Charlie Huddy, and Joe Murphy could be persuaded to join Mike in south Florida.

      Moon
      To his credit, he did squeeze some good out of Creighton. I don't know how he did it, but he did. Creighton scored a memorable goal by chasing the puck as it slid behind the net and wrapping it around into the goal as his body was behind the net. Those long arms, which were so futilly used for so long on the forecheck, had finally found a purpose.
      No president wants war. Everything you may have heard is that, but it's just simply not true
      President George W. Bush, March 21, 2006

      I'm a war president
      President George W. Bush, February 8, 2004

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by mw.2+Aug 15 2005, 07:37 AM-->
        QUOTE(mw.2 @ Aug 15 2005, 07:37 AM)

      • #5
        If you've won a Stanley Cup in the last 20 years, Mike wants you on his team irregardless if you have any talent or not.
        Official sponsor of Mike Shannon's Retirement Party

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