How do you identify Mike Keenan?
A) Stanley Cup champion coach in New York in 1994.
B) A welsher, who ran out on his Rangers contract.
C) St. Louis coach.
D) A genius.
E) The opposite of a genius.
Well, yes, you say. He is all that.
And now, with his team struggling to stay in the Western Conference playoff race, Keenan becomes an even easier target.
"Yeah, if he keeps going the way he's been going, he'll be the St. Louis Blues' old coach," said Brendan Shanahan, the former St. Louis favorite whom Keenan traded to Hartford earlier this season.
Going into last night's game against Vancouver, the Blues were 8-10-2.
Controversy has been the bye-word in St. Louis: It was bye to goalie Curtis Joseph, bye to forward Esa Tikkanen and bye to Shanahan -- all were traded. Keenan also saw fit to make Brett Hull say bye to the captain's "C." The man obviously never has read the book, "How to Win Friends and Influence People."
So was it just circumstances this week that, when Keenan laid into referee Terry Gregson as the culprit in St. Louis' 5-2 loss to Toronto, none of his players backed him up?
"We sat around and watched them play in the first," said Blues defenseman Al MacInnis. "The referee was not to blame. We don't have any excuses."
Left wing Shayne Corson said: "We've got nobody to blame but ourselves."
And goalie Grant Fuhr, 33, who deserves a gold star for having played in every Blues game this season, said: "My performance just wasn't good enough. . . . It's frustrating."
In St. Louis, it's a good bet no one is more frustrated than Keenan. It's also clear he is the one who dug the quarry. Stay tuned to find out if Keenan proves himself to be multiple-choice ++ answer D or E.
Throat guard for Peake
When Washington Capitals right wing Pat Peake returns to the ice tonight against Tampa Bay, he'll be wearing a new piece of equipment -- a throat guard.
Peake suffered thyroid cartilage damage Oct. 29, when St. Louis' Chris Pronger chopped him across the throat with a high stick. When Peake returned to practice, he put on the protective gear, usually only worn by goalies.
"I'm going to wear it," Peake said. "My shoulder pads come down lower than normal, and I don't mind it. It's a nice piece of protection, and the doc says I should wear it because the cartilage won't be fully healed, though it will be strong enough to play."
The NHL and the Canadian Hockey League have joined forces to create the CHL Chrysler Cup Challenge at Toronto's Maple Leaf Gardens, Feb. 15. The game will feature the top 40 NHL prospects.
The most hotly contested All-Star race is in the East between Pittsburgh's Jaromir Jagr (12,583 votes) and Hartford's Shanahan (12,512) for top winger.
The top overall vote-getters, however, are out West.
The Blues' Hull is the No. 1 vote-getter among the fans with
23,684, even though he has missed five games with a muscle BTC pull.
Hull's teammate, MacInnis (18,593), leads all defensemen. Chasing MacInnis are Chicago's Chris Chelios (14,596) and Detroit's Paul Coffey (13,447).
Centers: East battle between Pittsburgh's Mario Lemieux (10,735) and Philadelphia's Eric Lindros (8,876); Los Angeles' Wayne Gretzky (11,503) is 4,000 ahead of Detroit's Sergei Fedorov in the West.
Goalies: Chicago's Ed Belfour (10,886) is ahead of Toronto's Felix Potvin (6,957) in the West; back East, New Jersey's Martin Brodeur (9,690) and Florida's John Vanbiesbrouck (9,007) are 1-2.
Defensemen: The top two defensemen in the East are Boston's Ray Bourque (13,730), and New Jersey's Scott Stevens (11,679).
The Caps check in with goalie Jim Carey (3,272) in fourth place among East goalies; center Joe Juneau (903) seventh; wing Peter Bondra (1,221) 12th; and defensemen Mark Tinordi (891) 14th and Calle Johansson (796) 15th.
All-Star of sitting, maybe
The All-Star team is voted by NHL fans, and they evidently vote for the players they like based on past performance more than on current activities.
Consider Kings goalie Kelly Hrudey. He has played one game because of injury, but has 2,752 votes, good enough for fourth place. Meanwhile, Kings rookie standout Byron Dafoe isn't even in the top 10.