Mike Keenan

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Blues fans can relax: Berube signs three-year contract

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As silly as it seemed to worry about Craig Berube not being the St. Louis Blues’ head coach after the team won its first ever Stanley Cup, there were those who were sweating the lack of an announcement nonetheless.

After all, we’ve seen some instances in which a coach wins it all, only to change locales. In fact, it just happened with the coach before Berube, as the Washington Capitals didn’t bring back Barry Trotz after winning the 2018 Stanley Cup, only for Trotz to win the Jack Adams with the resurgent New York Islanders. (Also: Mike Keenan.)

With Trotz, there was a succession plan already in place in Washington, so they move on with Todd Reirden. The Blues clearly weren’t penciling in Berube as a sure-thing, either, what with Berube being a mid-season replacement for Mike Yeo, and Berube carrying the “interim” title for a curious amount of time.

Well, any mild concerns were put to rest, anyway, on Tuesday. The Blues announced that Berube has been signed to a three-year contract.

[Berube helped Blues find identity after early-season struggle]

It’s slightly disappointing that the money details haven’t leaked (yet?), as it would be intriguing to find out what Berube is getting paid. As much as winning it all drives up your bargaining power, there’s also not the greatest market for coaching jobs by late June, and Berube is likely relieved to not only coach a clearly talented team, but also to find a stable position.

(Stable by the almost inherently unstable standards of coaching jobs in the NHL, at least.)

The Athletic’s Jeremy Rutherford tracked down some quotes on the re-upping, including from Blues GM Doug Armstrong.

It’s been quite the whirlwind year for Berube. He took over for Yeo, saw the ascent of Jordan Binnington, earned a Jack Adams nomination, and then made some deft moves in helping the Blues win the Stanley Cup. Berube’s three-year extension is well-earned, and while he likely isn’t losing any sleep over it, you could very well argue that his Jack Adams case was even better than that of Trotz.

With this question answered, we can move on to the next one: can Berube and the Blues back this all with a strong encore?

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Mike Keenan out as coach/GM of KHL’s Kunlun Red Star

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Days after losing his role as general manager, Mike Keenan has now been relieved of his coaching responsibilities by Kunlun Red Star of the KHL. Following nine straight defeats, which places them near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, the 68-year-old will remain as an executive member on the team’s International Advisory Board.

Former NHLer Bobby Carpenter will take reins behind the bench on an interim basis with fellow ex-players Cliff Ronning and Igor Kravchuk staying on as assistants.

“Mike Keenan has done a great job for several months,” said Kunlun president Raitis Pilsetnieks via SovSport (translated). “He formed a completely new KHL team, and also took an active part in building the entire club structure, which is part of a large-scale project for the development of Chinese hockey in the run-up to the Winter Olympics in 2022.

“Since March, he worked almost without days off, and we were often amazed at his amazing endurance and efficiency. But, unfortunately, everything has a limit, and the work, coupled with a huge number of flights, is beyond his strength. Therefore, it was decided to return to the original form of cooperation. I have no doubt that as a member of the International Coordination Council Mike Keenan will bring a lot of benefits to the club and the Chinese hockey in general.”

Kunlun responded well to the news by snapping their nine-game losing streak with a 4-3 overtime win against Amur on Sunday.

Keenan, who was the first coach to win championships in the KHL and NHL, joined Kunlun in March 17 months after he was canned by Metallurg Magnitogorsk, with whom he led to a Gagarin Cup title in 2014.

So will we hear Keenan’s pop up whenever the first NHL head coach gets fired this season? He’s been out of the NHL game since 2009, but that never stopped general managers from bringing in a retread. Hey, how about a Philadelphia reunion? OK, that’s probably a pipe dream. But given Keenan’s recent coaching history, it wouldn’t be a shock to see him resurface behind a bench elsewhere in Europe.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Iron Mikhail? Keenan may coach Russia in international competition

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Many hockey fans might not realize this, but Mike Keenan is still very much an active professional coach. He’s just doing so in Russia.

If there was any question about his commitment to his second hockey home, consider this: TSN’s Darren Dreger reports that Keenan is in the process of gaining Russian citizenship, and may just help coach the country at the international level:

The native of Whitby, Ont., is in the process of finalizing his Russian citizenship, as is his long-time assistant, Mike Pelino. Russian officials have been encouraging Keenan do this for some time to show fans he is committed to the team, the KHL and the country. Keenan, who says he has learned enough of the Russian language to get by, is in the final year of his contract but doesn’t sound like he’s in any rush to get out. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.

Once his Russian citizenship has been approved, there is a good chance the highly decorated coach will return to international competition. If all goes as planned, Keenan could be on the bench, or at least a member of Team Russia’s staff, at future championships, including the World Cup of Hockey in Toronto in 2016.

Neat stuff, right?

It’s difficult not to take “learning enough of the Russian language to get by” as “locking down a few phrases he can scream at KHL players,” but credit him for following his passion at 65.

Keenan (pictured on the left) is currently in a very successful run with KHL team Magnitogorsk.

Speaking of familiar faces behind KHL benches, it sounds like Sergei Zubov’s getting a big opportunity with SKA St. Petersburg:

Keenan wants back in the NHL: “I still have the intellect for it, the knowledge and the passion”

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Iron Mike, coming to an arena near you?

(Obviously not if a lockout occurs, but try to play along.)

That’s what the man himself suggested in a recent interview. Yes, Mike Keenan — who turns 63 in October — told NHL.com he’d like to get back behind an NHL bench and add to his 672 career wins.

“I’d love to coach back in the League. You never know if the game is going to call you back or not,” Keenan said. “I still have the intellect for it, the knowledge and the passion for the game.”

Keenan hasn’t coached in the NHL since 2008-09, when he led Calgary to a 46-30-6 record and the club’s most recent playoff berth (the Flames since missed the last three postseasons.)

Even though he’d be the oldest coach in the league, Keenan’s return isn’t far-fetched. He interviewed with Caps GM George McPhee for the then-vacant Washington gig back in June, and says his age could be an asset in a league where one third of the coaches are under the age of 46.

“Bowman coached almost until he was 70. Hitchcock set a good example. He’s the oldest coach in the League and won Coach of the Year,” Keenan said. “I know if I can get back in the League I can do a superb job. Whether that will ever happen, I have no idea.”

Caps interviewed Mike Keenan regarding head coaching gig

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After some soul searching, the Washington Capitals decided to go with a first-time head coach (and one would think, offense-first guy) in Adam Oates. Darren Dreger provides an fascinating wrinkle to that decision-making process, though: the Caps also interviewed “Iron” Mike Keenan before choosing Oates.

Mike Keenan interviewed for head coaching job in Wash. McPhee called to tell him he was out, just before news broke Oates had been hired.

There are so many different things to take from that scenario. The most obvious one is the mind-blowing concept of Keenan working with Alex Ovechkin. Yup, that would have been … interesting.

Regardless of how serious the Capitals really were when interviewing Keenan, it reveals how much of a fork in the road Washington GM George McPhee was at after Dale Hunter left. He could have gone in a similar – possibly more restrictive – direction with Keenan, but instead he opted for a (seemingly) more player-friendly guy in Oates.

That shouldn’t stop you from picturing the hockey “Odd Couple” that would have been Keenan & Ovechkin. How well do you think they could have worked?