Mike Keenan strikes again
Steve Ovadia picked up on a Miami Herald story yesterday about 'Mad' Mike Keenan, and what Herald beat writer Dave Neal calls the 'Keenanization' of the Panthers (sounds painful).
Having been a Canuck fan through Keenan's tenure with the club, I can attest that it often is painful. Note Neal's description of the process:
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.As Cousin BJ notes, getting 'Keenan guys' often means tracking down Brian Noonan and Stephane Matteau.
Panthers fans should be more than a little perturbed that this round of Keenanization could very well cost them the longterm services of standout netminder Roberto Luongo. The club's latest contract negotiations have gone anything but well, and ultimately ended with the Panthers getting a favorable $3.2-million contract through arbitration — a process that taxes relations with players at the best of times.
With Luongo rejecting a $25-million, five-year deal, it's clear the league's top young goalie isn't ready to hitch himself to the struggling club longterm.
For Luongo, this isn't just about the money. The Panthers have missed the playoffs four consecutive years and have had multiple coaches in three of those seasons (save for 2002-03, when Keenan lasted an entire season). Much of the reason Luongo didn't get the coin he deserves from an arbitrator is how terrible the club in front of him has been. More than any other single player, the goaltender's numbers are most adversely affected by the line-up he plays behind.
As a comparison, look at the numbers Luongo's backups have posted behind one of the NHL's most porous defences... in 2003-04, Steve Shields had a 3.44 GAA and an 87.9% save percentage. That Luongo could then have a 2.43 GAA and 93.1% save percentage tells the tale on its own how vastly superior he is (which, in comparison to Mr. Shields, may not be saying much).
The fact is, with an average goaltender in net, Florida is one of the worst teams in the league. With Luongo, they are at least competitive.
Luongo is 26 years old, and 2005-06 will be his sixth NHL season. I certainly can't blame the guy if he wants to play in the postseason and be paid like the top-flight netminder that he is. I also won't hold it against him if he wants no part in the latest Keenanization project.