Bruins replace Burns with Keenan


Wednesday, October 25th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6



BOSTON (AP) _ The Boston Bruins fired coach Pat Burns on Wednesday and replaced him with Mike Keenan, a coach they passed over when they hired Burns three years ago.

The sometimes irascible Keenan, 51, won a 1993-94 Stanley Cup with the New York Rangers. But he was fired by the Vancouver Canucks, his fifth NHL club, midway through the 1998-99 season and has been working as a broadcaster in Toronto since then.

Keenan said he was ``ecstatic'' about the opportunity to coach the Bruins.

``We share a vision about the prospects and future of Boston Bruins, and that is success,'' he said.

Burns was fired following a tumultuous year in which management blamed him for the team's problems, but decided to keep him on.

Bruins general manager Harry Sinden said he decided to fire Burns after the team dropped four straight games. The team had opened the season 3-0-1.

``The team's play over their last several games has convinced me we need to go in a different direction and that a different coach was needed for that to be accomplished,'' Sinden said.

``We believe that the players on this team have the talent to be a contending playoff club, but have not played up to that potential. I felt a coaching change was necessary at this time for us to move forward.''

At a news conference Wednesday morning, Sinden said he'd talked to Burns on the phone and planned to meet with him in person to explain the decision.

``It's hard to get a grasp on how he felt,'' Sinden said. ``It sounded somewhat as if he was not totally surprised. That might not be the case. He's very interested in my explanation to him, when I do sit down with him, as to why.''

Keenan is known for an authoritarian coaching style that has earned him the ire of players and fans _ but also a measure of respect. He said he thought 90 percent of his players would choose to play for him again.

Keenan has already talked to Bruins players about the change.

``Needless to say they're in shock,'' he said. ``It's a very emotional day for them, but a day of new beginnings for all of us.''

Burns became the coach of the Bruins in 1997 after the franchise finished with the worst record in the NHL and missed the playoffs for the first time in 30 years. The team improved by 30 points in the standings in his first year, earning him a third coach of the year award.

In 1998, the Bruins had the same regular-season record, 39-30-13 and they won a first-round playoff series for the first time since 1994.

But last year, the Bruins missed the playoffs for just the second time since 1967, and owner Jeremy Jacobs blamed Burns for the team's performance.

``I think our team has been managed well by Harry and Mike (O'Connell),'' Jacobs said in January, referring to the general manager and his assistant. ``But our coaching has not been what I think it should be.''

The Bruins were hurt by an injury to starting goalie Byron Dafoe and injuries to top scorers Jason Allison and Anson Carter and defenseman Kyle McLaren.

The Bruins also took several public relations hits. The team traded longtime defenseman Ray Bourque to the Colorado Avalanche after Bourque decided he couldn't win a championship with the Bruins.

The team also had to contend with Marty McSorley's stick assault. McSorley whacked Vancouver Canucks forward Donald Brashear in the side of the head in an effort to challenge him to a fight.

McSorley was convicted of assault with a weapon this month in a Canadian court.

Despite the problems, Sinden made a point in April to say Burns would be back for the fourth year of his contract.

A former Quebec police officer, Burns became coach of the Montreal Canadiens in 1988 and led them to 115 points and the Stanley Cup finals, earning him his first Jack Adams Award as coach of the year. Over four years in Montreal, he was the NHL's winningest coach, posting a 174-104-42 record.

In 1992-93, he took over a Toronto franchise that hadn't been above .500 in 13 years and led it to consecutive appearances in the conference finals. Toronto went from 67 points in 1991-92 to 99 in Burns' first year _ the biggest single-season turnaround in team history _ and he was named coach of the year again.