SUN Hockey Pool

Back to the future for Playfair

RANDY SPORTAK, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:53 AM ET

The coaching picture in the Calgary Flames organization will become a bit clearer today, when it's expected Jim Playfair will be announced as the new bench boss for the Abbotsford Heat of the AHL.

For Playfair, it will mean a return to the AHL and a return to head coaching duties.

Although it has been a curious roller-coaster ride for him.

Playfair was Calgary's associate coach the last two seasons while Mike Keenan was at the helm. That followed just one season as head coach of the Flames (2006-07), in which the team posted a 43-29-10 record but lost to Detroit in the first round of the playoffs.

Flames GM Darryl Sutter said last week Playfair had been offered the job for the team that was moved from Quad City to British Columbia, even though Playfair and all the other assistant coaches who'd been part of the organization wouldn't be offered contracts in Calgary.

The new Flames head coach, which is expected to be Sutter himself or his brother Brent, will choose his staff.

"I think Jimmy Playfair is an excellent coach, and I still think he's gonna be a head coach in the NHL," Sutter said last week.

Which may happen again, but for now, he's taking a step back. However, Playfair has had success coaching in the minors.

He guided the Saint John Flames to the Calder Cup as AHL champs in 2001. Over two-and-half-seasons in Saint John, his teams compiled a 83-77-22-10 record. Prior to that, he coached in the Dallas Stars system.

He became an assistant coach under Sutter in Calgary midway through the 2002-03 season.

Playfair turned down the head coach position in Calgary when Greg Gilbert was fired, but was summoned once Sutter took over the reins, continuing a relationship that goes back more 20 years, when Sutter was coaching IHL teams in Saginaw, Mich., and Indianapolis.

Playfair was captain of the 1990 championship team in Indianapolis, with Sutter as head coach.

Perhaps this decision will facilitate a return to the NHL ranks for Playfair, whose calling card is a strong technical approach to the game and being a good teacher for young players.

What this means in Calgary, however, isn't much, other than the expected plan Sutter's made appears to be coming together.

Ryan McGill, who spent the last three seasons as head coach of the team's AHL affiliate, is believed to be a front-runner for an assistant coaching position in Calgary once a new bench boss is named.

Another strong candidate for an assistant's job is Dave Lowry, the former Flames captain who guided the WHL's Calgary Hitmen to a record-breaking season.


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