Playfair smartened up in hurry

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 9:36 AM ET

Now that the Calgary Flames have won six games in a row, it's time to anoint Jim Playfair a sure-fire bet for the Jack Adams Award.

And while honouring Playfair as the NHL's coach of the year, might as well give him a long, lucrative contract.

Sounds absurd, doesn't it?

Just as loony as it was a few weeks ago for anyone to say Playfair -- in his first month as an NHL coach -- should be fired.

A few weeks removed from the steady stream of whispers and debates as to whether Playfair was en route to holding the shortest head coaching career in NHL history, times have changed. His team, which enjoyed a day off yesterday, is coming off what may be its best game in a year, a 4-1 pounding of a well-rested Detroit Red Wings team Friday that had won nine straight.

Notable during the streak is the victories over Anaheim -- which hadn't lost in regulation time before being blanked 3-0 -- and Dallas.

Now that his team is rolling, does Playfair now want to shove the words back down the throats of those who were calling for his head?

"It doesn't really matter what I think about it," he said.

"That's totally up to what you guys decide to write and talk about. I'm not gonna talk about it."

Certainly, though, there is a difference with the Flames that goes beyond wins and losses. Their defensive game has become nearly air-tight. They haven't surrendered a five-on-five goal in more than 17 periods.

Offensively, they're no juggernaut but have scored at least three goals in each of the last seven outings.

Hey, even the maligned powerplay clicked three times against the Wings.

Can't help but wonder what the coach is doing differently.

"Nothing. That's the whole irony of it. Perception is it was wrong. Perception's now it's right," he said. "It takes time for things to happen. I think the perception that things will fall into place instantaneously is wrong. Every team goes through the work required to identify and find itself, and we're working through that."

Therein lies one of the reasons Playfair will succeed as a coach. He's level headed because he's prepared.

Sure he's learned from his first couple of months on the job -- who hasn't when they began their careers? -- but amidst a streak not seen in Calgary for a year, and the second longest since the 1992-93 campaign, he remains focused on the goal.

He sees it no more challenging to coach a team when it's on a winning streak than when it's reeling in a losing skid.

"We look at every day and how we can best prepare our team to win. We identify areas of our game (where) we have to be a lot better, areas of our game we're improving on and then individual challenges and collective challenges," he said. "We're really committed to developing a certain style of play to be really consistent for a very long time, and so the preparation that went in early in the season and the preparation into how we're playing now is very similar.

"I think that's what you want to do to develop a long-term winning environment. When things aren't going well, do you run away and change your true beliefs or do you stick with them? And when things are going better, do you change them because they're going better? I don't think so. I think you stick with what you believe in, you stick with the principles that are the nonnegotiable issues of your hockey club."

Which is why he sees no reason to concern themselves over becoming complacent.

During a winning streak, bad habits can sometimes creep into the team's game, especially when they don't prevent them from getting another 'W.'

"You focus on day-to-day improvements for your team. When you're looking to improve, you focus on finding the next challenge," he said.

"That's something I think good character people make sure doesn't come into play."


Videos

Photos