Sutter's nifty stickhandling

Calgary Flames GM Darryl Sutter won't say whether coach Jim Playfair is on the hot seat. (Sun Media...

Calgary Flames GM Darryl Sutter won't say whether coach Jim Playfair is on the hot seat. (Sun Media File/Carlos Amat)

ERIC FRANCIS -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:51 AM ET

On the eve of the trade deadline, talk around Calgary isn't revolving around which players Darryl Sutter might add to his lineup.

Instead, the scuttlebutt is all about who he might send packing.

And right or wrong, Jim Playfair's name is at the top of that list.

But while speculation swirls the Flames first year coach could pay the price for a dismal road record, Sutter refused yesterday to clarify his stance on the debate.

"I don't even want to publicly comment," said Sutter yesterday, between phone calls from GMs around the league.

"It's about winning now and we think on paper we have the personnel."

Some will suggest Sutter just isn't the type to hand out public votes of confidence and simply believes he has no duty to keep the public abreast of his thoughts.

Others will suggest that by pointing out that the roster should be good enough to win with more consistency he is in fact readying himself for a return to the bench where he worked miracles in 2004.

"I'm not going there either," said Sutter when asked if he had any desire to add coaching to his GM duties again.

Asked if it was fair for fans to pin a 7-15-8 road record on Playfair, Sutter did offer his thoughts on their stunningly abysmal showing away from the 'Dome.

"We went from a team that didn't score enough to now being top five (actually, seventh) in the league -- the bottom line is we're giving up too many goals," said Sutter.

"That's not a coaching thing, it's a group thing. When they commit to that, they can have some success but time is of the essence."

Again, it's hard to read into his comments as some will suggest his reference to time alludes to what may be running out on his coach.

Or, he could be referring to the fact teams should be playing playoff-style hockey by now, especially given the Flames are eighth in the west and far from sewing up a playoff berth.

So, as part of the ol' how-many-times-can-you-ask-the-same-question routine, let's give it another go: Is he happy with Playfair's performance this year?

"The first month I wasn't happy with anybody, coaches or players," said Sutter, whose club is a league-best 25-6-1 at home.

"But since then they've played well. They just haven't been consistent. There has to be a balance between skill and work. If our team can make a committment to going into those tough areas and winning those battles we can be a really good team. When they don't they're just a bunch of good players. Our best month was January when Jarome (Iginla) was out and that tells you they're capable as a group and that it's not about one player -- it's about the collective."

A collective that might be bolstered by yet another trade before tomorrow's deadline perhaps?

"I just don't know," said Sutter, who is still looking at a few options.

"I like our team and anything we do is something we'd really have to look at carefully. I'm not sure I want to lose anyone we have right now."

Including Playfair?

"I'm not discussing that."

At least we tried.


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