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Sutter steps aside, Playfair named head coach

by Staff Writer / Calgary Flames
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Darryl Sutter is relinquishing head coaching duties of the Calgary Flames and will be replaced by assistant Jim Playfair.

The Flames announced on Wednesday that Sutter, who became coach of the Flames in 2002 and added the general manager’s title in 2003, will retain the role of general manager.

With Playfair moving into the head coaching role, the Flames also announced that Wayne Fleming will join the coaching staff.

Flames coaches bios

At the end of the playoffs Sutter said he was considering not coaching and concentrating on the general manager task.

“I consider Jim Playfair as one of the top young coaches in our league today with more experience than the majority of that group,” said Sutter. “Jim has won at every level, both as a player and a coach, he is well prepared and well deserving of this opportunity. To be able to have young head coaches like Jim Playfair and Ryan McGill within our organization is significant.

“I think we have a great team and I think now we have a great coach.

“Don’t overlook the fact that it’s about the team, don’t over look that there’s a time for your veteran players and your leadership players, and your skilled players and top players to assume responsibility of the whole program too. Even though we are hiring a new head coach today, and it’s not a surprise, remember this is a great staff. That’s what it’s about. It’s not about one person, it’s about the whole organization taking control and those are the steps that we’ve made.”

Sutter, 47, led the Flames to a Stanley Cup berth in 2004, where they fell in seven games to the Tampa Bay Lightning. Calgary posted a 46-25-11 record this year—good for third in the Western Conference—but lost to the Anaheim Mighty Ducks in seven games in the first round of the playoffs.

“I’ve done it a long time and coached a lot of games so obviously I’m going to miss it," said Sutter of being behind the bench.

"I have a tremendous responsibility to the organization. It’s not that you’re just dealing with 23 players; you’re dealing with 50-60, plus a big scouting staff, and a coaching staff, so I really don’t think I’ll have time to miss anything. What it will allow me to do is to really focus on what’s ahead and what more you have to do.”

Sutter compiled a 107-73-26 record in two-plus seasons behind the Calgary bench, joining the Flames after head coaching stints in Chicago and San Jose.

Playfair, 42, has spent the past three seasons as a Flames assistant after two-plus seasons as head coach of the Flames’ AHL affiliate in Saint John. N.B. Playfair led the AHL’s Flames to the Calder Cup title in 2001 and has been coaching for 14 years.

"I think the character of our dressing room is a big factor. We have to continue to build our identity of a hard-working team," said Playfair. "We have to continue to grow and improve that identity."

Playfair said spending so much time in the organization will help make the coaching transition smooth.

"Coming through the organization you know what it is all about and you know what the identity is. It's an honour," said Playfair.

Wayne Fleming was named as Playfair’s replacement. Fleming formerly served stints as assistant coach with the New York Islanders, Phoenix Coyotes and Philadelphia Flyers.

"He has won. He understands player development. He has a great handle on the NHL and developing players," said Playfair of Fleming.

Playfair said the Flames will remain the Flames. In other words, he won't be changing the style of play. He will be reinforcing what Sutter has instilled since arriving in Calgary.

"Our team is hungry. Our team is focused. I like the mind set of our players," said Playfair.

“Wayne is a proven international pro coach who is coming off three Olympic Games and a World Cup,” said Sutter. “He brings tremendous experience and is a good compliment to our current coaching staff.”

“This is an exciting time for me joining the Flames organization,” said Fleming. “I’m proud to join Jim Playfair and the rest of the coaching staff as well as two great hockey individuals in Ken King and Darryl Sutter. In this game winning is everything and there is no question the commitment of the Flames is winning the Stanley Cup.”

Fleming joins the Flames after three seasons as an Assistant Coach with the Philadelphia Flyers. He was named to the Flyers coaching staff on May 30, 2002. Philadelphia posted a 130-67-39-10 during Fleming’s time with the club.

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