This year's edition of the Not-So-Sweet Sixteen began with Brian Lawton taking out Mike O'Connell with 68% of the vote, making him our first quarterfinalist, and our first quarterfinalist from the Southeast division. I doubt that he'll be the last. In fact, you fine voters will have an opportunity to add to the Southeast quotient in today's battle of the misbehaving Mikes. Will Mike Keenan's short but awful reign at the helm of the Florida Panthers be enough to overcome Mike Barnett's lengthier rule of a team no one cared about anyway? A case for each after the jump.
(10) Mike Keenan
Teams Managed: Florida Panthers (Start to September 3, 2006)
Record: 37-34-11 (.518 points percentage)
Keenan didn't spend a lot of time as general manager of the Florida Panthers, but like Mike O'Connell, he sure did a lot of damage with his one big move. The Roberto Luongo trade was famously terrible, and particularly frustrating for an Oilers' fan who watched Chris Pronger get traded for magic beans (which are now growing!) just a few days later. How much better would the Oilers have been over the last several years with Luongo between the pipes? And how much better would the Panthers have been with Chris Pronger manning the blueline instead of getting various contributions from Alex Auld, and a particularly ineffectual Todd Bertuzzi. There are some other minor quibbles (like trading a cheap, young, and established Niklas Hagman to the Dallas Stars for a seventh-round pick) along with his usual inability to get along with others (he resigned after losing a power struggle to Jacques Martin), but more than anything, it's the paltry return on the Luongo trade that had the largest negative impact on the Panthers.
(7) Mike Barnett
Teams Managed: Phoenix Coyotes (Start to April 11, 2007)
Record: 69-85-10 (.451 points percentage)
It's not really his fault that he was so bad. His only qualification for this job was that he was a friend of Wayne Gretzky. If he was the only one, that might not have been so bad, but there were a lot of people in that organization with jobs because they were FoGs. And that's not going to work. But even having said that, Barnett made some really terrible decisions. He signed Ed Jovanovski to a five-year deal that paid him $6.5M per season for his age 30 to 34 seasons. In the first year of his deal, that represented 14.8% of the salary cap on a team that didn't spend to the cap in the first place. He gave Georges Laraque a two-year contract at over a $1M per season and a no-trade clause too. He trusted Curtis Joseph to be a reliable starting goalie at age 38, and then after his performance was inadequate, did it again when Joseph was 39! But maybe more than anything else, it's his involvement in illegal gambling that really cinches the case for Barnett having poor judgment. This was being facilitated by one of his coaches, and when Barnett found out, he actually decided to participate in it. Granted, it's a strange law, but how on earth does it make any kind of sense to get involved with sports gambling in the United States if you run a professional sports franchise. That's really stupid.