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Fun with Hockey News

Thnkeenan The latest edition of The Hockey News is out on your local newsstands today with the ever-serious Mike Keenan staring back from the cover.

Much has been made about Iron Mike's comments about his tenure in Florida, only I didn't notice much being made about the Roberto Luongo trade. So, perhaps the one thing Keenan will be remembered most for as a GM (the Luongo trade trumps the Pronger deal fivefold) isn't mentioned. Not a word, not even in passing. Fine.

Perhaps it's as simple as the basis of the story being about Keenan the Coach, not Keenan the GM. There also could have been a deal made between Keenan and THN. You get the story if you don't mention Luongo. It's possible. Word is Mike is still pretty defensive about the subject. The article also mentions that Keenan resigned before the start of last season, although that's not the case as most know.

Whatever.We'll get to the Keenan article in depth later, but what I found the most scathing was Mike Brophy's column on the back page. Headlined 'Cats Climbing? Don't Bet on it,' Brophy goes on to say he doesn't think the Panthers are a Stanley Cup team. Really, you don't?  I don't know too many people who do (except for the dolt who wrote the real estate commercial 'when you think Panthers, think the Cup...').

This is not a championship team, not now, perhaps not ever. They are, however, a pretty good team one that should challenge for a playoff berth. Then, who knows? Did anyone see the Hurricanes coming before 2005? The Lightning in 2003? Championship teams come together if they have the right mix of talent, chemistry, guts. Brophy questions Florida's guts saying he doesn't see anyone but Gregory Campbell laying it on the line and sacrificing his body. Oh no? How about Mike Van Ryn, Ruslan Salei, Bryan Allen? Olli Jokinen played through some pretty serious pain this past season when he could have shut things down early.

I do admit I agree with some of the things Brophy writes. I watched almost every game of this past postseason and I think I felt worse about the Panthers' postseason chances for success after watching the first round than I did just a few weeks before when the season ended.

Did the Panthers play some good hockey last year? Sure. Did they ever show me that they could sustain the kind of play that's needed throughout the postseason? Nope. If the Panthers made the playoffs this year, I think they would have lasted as long as the Thrashers did. Yes, the mentality inside that room needs to change. The guys talk about not making excuses but it kind of sounds the same. This Florida team needs to jump out quick, no lapses in November, no talk about not gelling until after the New Year.

Love Brophy's ending line though: For a team that hasn't been in the playoffs since Pavel Bure was its top scorer (retired for four years), it seems to me fans in South Florida have a better chance of seeing David Caruso win a best acting Emmy before they see the Panthers hoist the Cup.

Agreed Broph: Caruso's acting is pretty crappy. And most of that show is filmed in California anyway.

-- Back to Keenan: The cover story is basically more of the same. The writer rips Keenan's recent past and Mike responds to why he failed. Every time, it seems, it ain't Mike's fault.

Prior to the start of the 2005-06 season, Keenan told me that he really regretted leaving New York the way he did, and while he shared some of the blame for that mess, I do believe he regrets the way that worked out. Who knows what would have happened had he stayed with the Rangers another year. Would they have won the Cup again? Would he have alienated so many people he would have been fired anyways? Who knows. I do think he would have loved to have had the chance to repeat and I know that one year in New York is one of his favorites of all time. Mike's a hero in New York, and he should be.

That said, he's burned some bridges in Vancouver, St. Louis and of course here in rainy South Florida. As far as his stay in Florida goes, Keenan's era as GM isn't brought up in the article. As far as his coaching stint goes, he says the team "isn't good enough.'' He also says he was in the "wrong place at the wrong time'' and the "belief of ownership is skewed. They think the team is going to be in the final and they can't even make the playoffs.''

And that, apparently, isn't Mike Keenan's fault either.

-- Speaking of Keenan, Sean Hill is going home. The former Florida defenseman (signed by Keenan prior to the 2005-06 season, bought out prior tot he 2006-07 season) is returning to his native Minnesota after signing a one-year deal with the Wild.

Hill, 37, will miss the first 19 games of this coming season because he is still serving out his suspension from the playoffs. Prior to Game 5 of the Islanders' opening round series against Buffalo, the league suspended Hill for 20 games because he violated the league's drug policy.

''For the Wild to come out and tell me they wanted me, I can't tell you the feelings I had,'' Hill told the AP in a telephone interview Friday. ''I've played a lot of years in this league, and that wasn't the way I wanted to go out.''

-- Alexander Karpotsev is, however, still available for the right price.

-- Ottawa just promoted assistant coach John Paddock to replace Bryan Murray as head coach. Rochester Americans coach Randy Cunneyworth had been considered a finalist for the job. Rumors are Jacques is a fan of the job Cunneyworth has done down on the farm and there have been rumblings Cunneyworth is a candidate for the vacant assistant coaching job. Would he take the job if offered? Will he be allowed to leave as he is an employee of the Sabres? Again, we'll have to wait and see. I still think former Panther assistant and recently fired Tampa Bay assistant Craig Ramsay gets the gig. Both he and Cunneyworth are old friends of JM,so there's that to ponder.

-- The 2007-08 NHL schedule comes out Wednesday, the day after the Major League All-Star Game. Panthers open the preseason Sept. 16 against Keenan and the host Calgary Flames. Florida will also play preseason games against the Oilers, Flames (in Saskatoon) and Blackhawks before coming home. I think Detroit is coming here. Florida is said to open the season Oct. 4 at New York, home opened Oct. 6 against the homeless-for-a-bit Devils on Oct. 6. The Northwest Division (home to Keenan and Luongo) comes to Sunrise this season; Florida travels to the Central and doesn't play the Pacific.