Playfair offered minor-league post

STEVE MACFARLANE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:50 AM ET

Mike Keenan has company.

Joining the former Flames head coach in hockey limbo are assistants Rich Preston, David Marcoux and Rob Cookson, who were told by GM Darryl Sutter Monday he would let their contracts expire at the end of next month.

Associate coach Jim Playfair, whose deal also ends June 30, was offered a role as head coach of the new AHL affiliate Abbotsford Heat.

"We've offered Jimmy the position to coach Abbotsford," Sutter said yesterday. "The other coaches will not be renewed."

Allowing his new head coach to fill out his own staff is something Sutter sees as fitting, although he'd like farm-club coach Ryan McGill -- who would be bumped by Playfair if he accepts the move to B.C. -- to remain in the fold and maybe move up to an assistant role in the NHL.

"I'd like to keep Ryan in the organization," said Sutter, who wants to fill out his staff by the NHL draft June 26-27.

"The new head coach will decide that."

None of the assistants were made available for comment yesterday, and Playfair said through a representative he would speak next week.

Sutter, who has a long personal history with Preston, praised the staff but said it was time to move forward.

"It's a good coaching staff. Those guys are god coaches," said Sutter. "They've been here six years. Under normal circumstances, when you talk to those guys as a group or as individuals, it's an accomplished group.

"But, at the same time, we've had three head coaches counting myself in it, and the staff hasn't changed."

Playfair was one of those head coaches, taking over when Sutter stepped into a full-time GM role for the 2006-07 season.

After one year at the helm, he was demoted to associate coach when Keenan was brought in, but still had a massive role in the day-to-day operations of the team.

"I think Jimmy Playfair is an excellent coach and I still think he's gonna be a head coach in the NHL," Sutter said. "That's why I offered him the position in Abbotsford."

Speculation as to who could join the next head coach here depends on who you believe the next boss will be.

Most think it will be Sutter making a return. He'd likely bring McGill with him.

Another possibility is Calgary Hitmen head coach Dave Lowry, who will be coaching Canada's U-18 team this summer and played with the Flames under Sutter.

Lowry loves his current job, but he wouldn't hang up on Sutter if he makes an offer.

"I'd sit down and listen," Lowry said over the phone yesterday. "The next step is you wait and see what happens. I don't know what to make of it right now."


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