In defence of Jim Playfair

**Note: Also appears on the Calgary Herald’s Q Blog

Calgary Herald
Published: Sunday, March 18, 2007

Reginald Tiangha – March 17, 2007 23:13 -With Saturday’s loss against the Minnesota Wild the latest of many in recent history (fifth of the last six), many Flames fans are already calling for Jim Playfair’s head and demanding a coaching change. They say that he can’t motivate the players and has lost the locker room. This despite many of the players saying “it’s not the coaching, it’s us” when asked about their woes. For now, I’ll give the Flames players the benefit of doubt as I would consider a coaching change this late into the season to be nothing but a knee-jerk reaction.

Obviously, Flames fans want something or someone to blame. Someone to blame our sloppy defensive play on, someone to blame the utter lack of work ethic in the offensive zone, and, ultimately, someone to blame for the fact that we just simply haven’t been winning games lately. It doesn’t matter who or what, so long as we can blame something that is responsible for this team’s utter lack of confidence at times.

Since many fans are passionate about the players (to the point where most players can do no wrong, even when they do), by default it has to go to the coaching staff (but not GM Darryl Sutter because Sutter can do no wrong either) because obviously it’s the coaching staff that can’t motivate the players. However, replacing the coach at this stage of the game might not be anywhere near the solution to solve what’s really ailing the Calgary Flames.

I’ve seen it before at various other places I’ve worked at. Middle management has trouble motivating the lower grunts. Upper management brings in someone new and things seem to improve. Three months later, things go back to the way they used to be because bad management really wasn’t the issue. It was something else. It could have been the working environment, the lack of human or material resources needed to do the job effectively, some other kind of external factor, or problems stemming from higher up in the food chain. However, because the problem still persists, you learn to realize something: it wasn’t the middle management.

Unless any of us truly knows what goes on in that locker room, the same thing may be happening with the Flames. Perhaps Playfair has indeed lost the ear of the locker room and players are tuning him out. However it could be something else entirely.

It could be Conroy’s and Warrener’s absence from the line up (and locker room presence) due to injury. It could be illness making its rounds through the locker room. It could be a purely mental problem. Heck, a close loved one of one of the staff could have died, and everyone is in mourning. Is there really anyone outside of the organization that can say for sure?

All I know is that from witnessing the Wild vs. Flames game from the stands (and the last few games on TV) is that at times, we play strong and at most others we execute poorly. This has been the problem since the beginning of the season and should not surprise anyone. However, most people ignored that when we were winning. From what I’ve seen, I’m ready to blame the players 100 per cent because the effort I saw in the beginning (say, Tanguay throwing three hits in the first) was not there for the full 60 minutes (for example, players standing around in the defensive zone while the Wild scored on us).

A coaching change this late in the game is unwarranted and probably ill advised. Sutter will probably give Playfair until the end of the season to prove himself, and would probably recommend the same to upper management.

If a coaching change were to be made, it should be made during the off-season. If that were to happen, then yes, by all means blame Playfair. If not, then we know it was something else. If it’s the players, expect upgrades (re: Lundmark, Kobasew and Ference).

In any case, I know I’ll reserve judgment until it’s all over and I would hope that Flames fans would do the same.