Panthers Fire Keenan

Archived from 2003-04 season.

NHL teams

The Florida Panthers fired coach Mike Keenan and replaced him on an interim basis by general manager Rick Dudley.

"It was done simply because we felt the potential of this team was such that we wanted to play at a maximum or optimal level," Dudley said. "We did not feel we were doing that at this time."

Keenan's firing was not a surprise as Dudley had many fights with him over coaching philosophy and style. Keenan has been known to be the hardest coach in the league, but he was credited for turning some of the Panthers' prized young players into impact players.

"Coaching against him is how I measure most guys," Flyers coach Ken Hitchcock said. "His teams always play with an edge and always play physical. He seems to get the most out of underachieving offensive players, gets them to play above their level. You look at [Olli] Jokinen, [Kristian] Huselius and [Viktor] Kozlov. He has gotten a lot out of them."

"It was the players who let him down, because we didn't win the games," Jokinen said. "It's always up to the players. You shouldn't be afraid to play. You shouldn't lose your confidence. But like I said, you have to look at the big picture and hopefully Rick can turn this program around."

Keenan has coached six other NHL teams leading the Rangers to the Stanley Cup title in 1994. He also made it to the finals with the Flyers in 1985 and 1987 and the Blackhawks in 1992.

"He'll resurface somewhere again, like he always does," Flyers' Amonte said of Keenan.

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