Decision not un-'Fair

ERIC FRANCIS -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:32 AM ET

While one of the largest sports media gatherings in Calgary history swarmed around Mike Keenan and Darryl Sutter, Jim Playfair stood 30 feet down a dimly-lit hall talking to a lone scribe.

Having just sat bravely in front of the cameras and bright lights while it was confirmed he'd been demoted to associate coach, the Flames former bench boss exited stage left once the formalities ended.

"It was an easy decision to stay," said an understandably subdued Playfair, making the rare decision to stay on board despite being fired.

"It was based on what our intentions were when Darryl and I arrived here, which is to win the Stanley Cup. I want to be part of it.

"It won't be hard to walk back into that dressing room because it's all about trust and respect. I think when you look around 14 games above .500 in other situations is acceptable..."

Not here apparently.

Put in the impossible position of having to fill Sutter's shoes last year as a rookie, Playfair essentially became a victim of sky-high expectations only a Stanley Cup win would satisfy.

"What's really impressive is the organization's relentless pursuit to win the Cup -- that's strictly what it's about," said Playfair with convincing sincerity.

"Obviously the fans play a role because it's the entertainment industry but it's strictly internal expectations between Darryl, myself, Ken (King) and the owners."

Sutter said that given his history with Playfair the decision was obviously a hard one.

"Sure it was hard but it wasn't something spur of the moment -- it was an ongoing discussion," he said.

"Jimmy was hardened by the pressure and criticism he took from the media all year. For me to show support all the time made the relationship better. Hey, we came together in Dec. 2002 and he was a huge part of turning this process around. I wanted him to be here when we didn't lose Game 7 but won Game 7. That was very important to me."

Given his first pro coaching gig by Keenan and his first NHL stint by Sutter, Playfair insisted their long histories together made the decision to stay a no-brainer. However, at the end of the day he's a proud human being who had to have struggled with his dilemma the last few days.

"I don't know more than a handful of people who have the wisdom with introspection to realize 'I still have something to learn here but I'm involved with good people and a good organization and I'm going to do this no matter how difficult this 48 hours has been,'" said team president Ken King.

"That man sat up there shoulder-to-shoulder with his new boss who is now going to have his title. That speaks volumes for his character. I'm so proud of him.

"It had to have been the most difficult thing in the world, just being there but also to make that decision."

Criticized for lacking character last year, he proved otherwise simply by showing up yesterday.

Playfair said the demotion didn't come as a shock as it was part of a lengthy process of post-season evaluations by him and Sutter.

"It was strictly based on one thing -- honesty between Darryl and I," said Playfair, blamed by the fans for the team's poor road record and early playoff exit.

"It was a real clear, clean Darryl Sutter style. As we sat down to talk we asked, 'how can we win a Stanley Cup' and what our roles were. It's the next step for our organization to prepare ourselves to win a Stanley Cup."

A step he insisted on being part of regardless of the optics.


Videos

Photos