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|Sergei Fedorov's performance in Columbus will have a direct effect on the future of GM Doug MacLean.|
But the larger issue seems to be Keenan's strategy of throwing aging, brittle veterans together with young players not yet ready to produce at the NHL level. Still, this is the first season for longtime friends Keenan and Martin, and the duo is unlikely to pay the price for the team's disappointments, at least in the short term. The plight for owners and GMs in contemplating making coaching and/or managerial moves is one of timing. If a team fires a coach, can it find someone who can have an immediate, positive impact, one that will push the team back into a playoff position? Stan Kasten, former president of the NHL Thrashers as well as baseball's Braves and the NBA's Hawks, believes NHL teams pull the trigger more often and more quickly than in any other sport. Still, he doesn't think that the new landscape will see more coaches or managers fired but rather that the decision-making process might change. Because of the parity that exists economically and in the standings, bad teams might not have to make up as much ground as in the past to become competitive. That might prompt owners to be more patient if they have confidence in their management team. On the other hand, if a team is struggling, it's no longer feasible to remake a team by spending money on free agents or adding big salaries. Teams have to have sound scouting and development systems in place, as well as capable people at the NHL level. If this season appears to be lost, owners might want to give a new management team a head start on restructuring for next season. GMs who have signed players are notoriously loyal to their own selections, another factor in ownership perhaps opting to clean house sooner than later. Which brings us back to MacLean's trading partner in Anaheim, Brian Burke. Fedorov wasn't his guy, having been signed by his predecessor Bryan Murray, who is now coaching in Ottawa. Burke clearly thought the team would be served better by spending his cap money elsewhere. Still, the deal represents a significant gamble for Burke, whose team, on paper, should be better than its 7-8-4 record. The former Vancouver GM, who helped shape the Canucks into a perpetual contender while toeing the economic line, isn't in any immediate danger in his new post. But if he can't find the pieces needed to push the Ducks into the playoffs and Fedorov blossoms in Columbus, surely Burke's value to ownership will be undermined. Scott Burnside is an NHL writer for ESPN.com.