Playfair mulls his options

STEVE MACFARLANE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:18 AM ET

Although he stands 6-foot-3, Jim Playfair must feel considerably shorter having been kicked in the shins so many times.

The Calgary Flames associate coach has gone from top of the heap, to helper, to potentially out of the organization altogether in a span of three seasons.

Once believed the future of the Flames coaching ranks, the 45-year-old is now, at best, going to be the head coach of their farm club.

Offered the AHL affiliate Abbotsford Heat job last Friday, Playfair will talk it over with his family and decide whether or not he can swallow his pride -- one more time -- in the hopes he can return to the NHL in the future.

The lump in his throat must be a big one.

It's hard to say what might be the larger letdown: His demotion from head coach to associate two years ago when Mike Keenan was brought in by GM Darryl Sutter after Playfair was given just a single season as bench boss; or the current backhand stinging his cheek -- an offer to coach the kids in another shuffle backward.

It's got to feel like his car is stuck in reverse and driving over his feet at the same time.

The Flames will tell you the offer is on the table because they believe in him.

Sutter said as much at his question-and-answer period Tuesday afternoon.

"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."

Problem is, the way things are going, the Flames might be the only team to make that happen.

And it could be years away, if it ever comes at all.

Colorado Avalanche coach Tony Granato can sympathize after being demoted in favour of Joel Quenneville, then promoted again only to watch the Avs offer his job to Patrick Roy this spring.

Playfair seems tied to the same yo-yo string.

It's time he snip it and leave the Flames altogether.

His reputation -- once skyrocketing as he received credit for the Flames' top-ranked defensive positioning -- is taking hit after hit.

He couldn't get the best out of the Flames' core players as head coach.

Neither did Keenan, and that's why he was sent packing on the same day Sutter offered Playfair his latest olive branch.

Appointment to Abbotsford isn't the worst thing that could happen to the B.C. product, but Playfair has made a decision based on family needs before.

It's the biggest factor in his sticking around in Calgary after the 2006-07 campaign, when Sutter locked Keenan up for three seasons.

Playfair even sat at the table during the news conference, looking uncomfortable, and fielded questions on his demotion.

He's suggested he will be a head coach again next year.

If he can do it somewhere else, at any level, he should.

He says he's looking at other options.

Playfair should pounce on one of them.

If only to prove to someone other than Sutter that he's a capable coach, that he has a future in the NHL.

Because here it doesn't look like a bright one.


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