With four NHL head coaching jobs open, coupled with the fact he just won the KHL championship, you'd think Mike Keenan would be itching to get back to the NHL.
You would be wrong.
"I actually never thought about it and I don't think about it anymore," Keenan told me Tuesday. "People had an opportunity to hire me before and they didn't.
"I was out [of coaching] for about three years and doing TV, and when the opportunity to coach in Russia came along, I took some time to think about it and then decided to do it. They want me back, and at this point that's the only option I have.
"I'm too old to be sitting here worrying about if I'm going to get a chance to coach in the NHL again. I did not take the job in the KHL as a vehicle to get me back to the NHL. I know I can coach in the NHL, but there is no interest."
Keenan says working in the KHL fulfilled his craving to coach again, but also gave him a cultural experience that he'll cherish.
Keenan's Metallurg Magnitogorsk team
defeated Lev Prague 7-4 in Game 7 of the KHL final to claim the Gagarin Cup.
The fiery 64-year-old Keenan, whose hockey handle is Iron Mike, became embroiled in controversy in Game 6 of the final when he tried to physically engage an on-ice official after the game because he was upset at penalties that were called against his team.
All was well after Game 7, though, and Keenan and his coaching staff celebrated by singing Frank Sinatra's My Way
during post-game celebrations. And whatever is happening here:
The Whitby, Ont., native last coached in the NHL during the 2008-09 season, when he guided the Calgary Flames to a 46-30-6 record and then lost in the first round of the playoffs.
All told, Keenan is sixth in all-time NHL coaching wins with 672 after stints with the Flames, Philadelphia Flyers, Chicago Blackhawks, New York Rangers, Vancouver Canucks, Boston Bruins and Florida Panthers.
He won an Ontario Hockey League championship with the Peterborough Petes, an American Hockey League crown with the Rochester Americans and -- the crown jewel of his coaching career -- the Stanley Cup 20 years ago with the New York Rangers. He also coached one of the greatest versions of Team Canada -- featuring Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Mark Messier, Ray Bourque, Paul Coffey and Dale Hawerchuk -- to a Canada Cup victory in 1987.
Keenan says the experience coaching in the KHL was great because "We had very receptive players, a young group that was really open-minded."
He added that the hockey played in the KHL was top shelf -- not quite to the NHL level, but close.
Keenan did his teaching through an interpreter, but he says about half the team spoke English and he could get his message through to the players that only spoke Russian.
Keenan, along with his coaching staff (which included former Canadian national team fitness coach Mike Polino) lived in a dormitory setting and he says the food was always excellent. He is heading back to Russia in June for the KHL's awards banquet and then he'll return to Canada for a few months before beginning preparations for the 2014-15 season.Coaches wanted
At the end of the day Keenan went to Russia to add another championship to his legacy and he was successful.
"It's just as tough to win that Cup as it is to win the Stanley Cup," Keenan insisted. "You've got to win four best-of-seven rounds in the playoffs, and next season there will be 30 teams. This season there was 28. The intensity is not quite NHL standard, but I'll tell you, in the final series, we definitely played to the NHL standard you see now."
There are currently four NHL head coaching positions open and a possibility of more to come. The Vancouver Canucks, Washington Capitals, Florida Panthers and Carolina Hurricanes are all in the process of making a change behind the bench.
The Nashville Predators' vacancy closed Tuesday when they hired Peter Laviolette
The Toronto Maple Leafs, who failed to make the playoffs, have not yet announced the fate of their coach, Randy Carlyle, nor have the San Jose Sharks determined if Todd McLellan will be back after they were bounced in the first round after building a 3-0 series lead against the Los Angeles Kings.
If McLellan loses his job in San Jose, there is a chance he'll get one of the available jobs. GM Doug Wilson indicated he believes the organization should keep the coaching staff, but it's the owner's call.
Former Predators coach Barry Trotz is also among the ex-NHL coaches with a good chance at getting a new job soon.
As for Mike Keenan, he says if anybody wants him to coach in the NHL, they know where to find him.
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