Trying to play fair

coachjimmy.jpgWe’ve all been hard on Jimmy Playfair lately, and with good reason. Not only is he, as Leanne puts it, a “fashion disaster,” but he’s shown real flaws as a National Hockey League coach as well. This is fine at the beginning of the season, and in spurts, but it’s been about 20 games now that we’ve all been concerned about the same things:

• Inability to build a winning road game plan
• D-zone coverage
• In-game adjustments (i.e., how to keep the momentum after scoring a goal, or hold onto a two-goal lead in the third)
• Improper use of talent — particularly when it comes to Tony Amonte, Matthew Lombardi and Andrei Zyuzin
• Horrible PK.

We’ve been getting more manic lately, and with only a dozen games left in the season it’s understandable. But when Sportsnet pointed out the other night that the Flames are only two points off last season’s pace, I found it hard to believe — and started trying to figure out what Playfair’s done right. Because there is a list.

• Building the offence. Last year, the Flames couldn’t score a goal, and it was all anyone could talk about. This year, it’s a Top 7 offence in the league. And it’s not all Alex Tanguay.
• Getting Jarome Iginla back. Jarome himself has had a lot to do with this, as has Alex Tanguay and the improvement of players around him, but Playfair has put him in a position to succeed — same with Langkow, Lombardi and Huselius, who are all having career years.
• Turning around the power play. Remember how bad it was at the start of the season? Now it’s in the Top 10, and is a threat almost every time out. You need that in the playoffs.
• Maintain the home dominance. Darryl started this, but the team might be even better in the ‘Dome under Playfair.

All the recent doldrums have created nervous, pessimistic feelings for me, but nothing close to what I felt in games 6 and 7 against the Ducks last year. That Flames team was never, ever going to win those games. They didn’t even have a serious scoring chance in Game 7 — and that was at home. We all got used to fabulous defensive hockey during the Sutter era, and it almost won the Flames a Stanley Cup. But last year was solid evidence the old style was not going to work, so Darryl removed himself, overhauled the team, and it now has a whole new identity.

The challenge now — and this is Playfair’s challenge — is to take this identity and make it a big-time winner, like Sutter did with the 2003-04 team. I believe this is something the team can achieve in the last 12 games of the season, because of its wild success at home. The home/road chasm can’t possibly be as wide as it looks. The same team takes the ice every night.

Even with the 10-point cushion, tonight’s bout with the Avalanche is a big one because it can crush any tiny lingering doubts about qualifying for the playoffs — and because the time to start building those winning gameplans is now.

But I’ll be watching Playfair behind the bench as much as I’ll be watching the team itself tonight, because as Hockeygirl pointed out, he hasn’t looked confident back there all season — he doesn’t project leadership. We joke about the fashion, but this is a big part of that.

In other words, It’s time to find out if Jim Playfair is a leader. I think we’ll know by the time playoffs roll around.

Now, to lighten the mood, check this out. Nice work getting that one Alex, wherever it came from.


~ by duncan on March 14, 2007.

5 Responses to “Trying to play fair”

  1. Yet another dissapointing game where the Flames blew a lead and couldn’t muster any emotion whatsoever. How many times did they go offside?, i mean come on, this isn’t Pee Wee. I have to hand it to the Avalanche though, they beat the Flames at their own game, they were more physical, they won most of the puck battles, and most of the faceoffs. Calgary got outworked and looked suprisingly flat in the third period. Anyway, enough of my rant, I just hope they can muster a better effort against the Stars tonight.

  2. I sorta touched on this on my last post, but I would say in regards to the positives:
    He has more offensive talent on the roster than Sutter (Tanguay+Huselius with confidence+Conroy+Lombo year older+Moss etc.)
    Jarome is Jarome and the main difference between this year and last is the responsibility to score is diffused throughout the roster. This makes it harder to cover him defensively and it eases his mental burden.
    I have one word for the PP success: Juice. The man IS our PP, and the minute we took Tangs off the top unit and replaced him with Juice our PP exploded. Credit to Playfair I guess for realizing the PP needed switching up, but he was lucky enough to have the next ‘Magic Man’ sitting on the bench.
    They haven’t even looked good in the dome lately.

    But I can definately see your overall point, and I admit some of my critisms are cherry picked.

  3. They beat the Flames at their own game
    You know, I remember when this was true. Now I expect Calgary to get beat around the boards — on the road, anyway.

    But I can definately see your overall point, and I admit some of my critisms are cherry picked.
    Thanks Kyle. I wasn’t taking a shot at your post — I wrote the meat of this before I read it and, as I said, I loved the analysis — but I was definitely going at it with red-and-black coloured glasses. Accentuate the positives, you know? (Wouldn’t have done it had it been after the Colorado game, of course.

  4. […] fire Jim Playfair now. Gee, where have we heard this before? Maybe here, here, here, here and here/here. (Sorry to anyone I’ve forgotten, feel free to leave your calls for Jimmy’s head […]

  5. Fire him!! He’s usless!!! He is not an NHL coach. I know a bantam AAA team in Whitehorse he might be able to coach. Get someone else in there.

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