Updated: Flames exercise option to bring back Playfair
If the NHL comes calling, Jim Playfair will listen, but he's excited about the prospect of returning to his post behind the bench of the Abbotsford Heat.
The Calgary Flames, the Heat's NHL parent, announced Monday that they've picked up the option year on Playfair's contract. The two guaranteed years on the head coach's deal expired at the end of the 2010-11 season.
"It was agreed that we'd exercise the option on the contract and prepare accordingly," Playfair told The News on Tuesday. "I think there's always the potential for advancement – it's like players, always trying to move up. I have a window in my contract where if I'm pursued by another NHL team for another position, I can talk to them.
"But it's good to have the ability to have work, and we really enjoy the (Abbotsford) area. It's just a matter of trying to continue what we started earlier – trying to get this team into the playoffs consistently."
Under Playfair, the Heat are 77-61-9-13 over their first two American Hockey League regular seasons in Abbotsford.
Playfair steered the Heat to the Calder Cup playoffs in 2009-10, where they rallied from a 3-1 deficit to stun the Rochester Americans in the first round. They fell in six games to the Hamilton Bulldogs in the North Division final.
Last season, the Heat were the youngest team in the AHL, and narrowly missed the playoffs with a 38-32-4-6 record.
"We started off two years ago trying to establish this as a good team, a good place to play, all those types of things," Playfair said. "I think we're on the right path. It's a matter of getting some good veteran leadership in here to help us get over the hump, getting the right players in place where we can be a really good team each and every night. Obviously that's the focus of everybody that's involved here."
The big news out of Calgary on Monday was that Jay Feaster was officially named Flames general manager. He'd held the title of acting GM since December, when the Flames parted ways with Darryl Sutter. By extension, he is also GM of the Heat.
Playfair said he's got a good working relationship with Feaster, and called it "a real smart move" for the Flames to secure him.
"He's got the kind of resumé that everyone would like to be a part of, as a Stanley Cup winner," Playfair said, alluding to Feaster's management of the 2004 champion Tampa Bay Lightning. "To bring him in, with a fresh attitude and new ideas, is really important to the growth of the organization.
"He obviously focused a lot of his energy and time on the team in Calgary when he took over, and I'm looking forward to working with him a little closer on getting the proper players in here and getting ourselves up and running down here at a better pace."
Like Playfair, last year's Heat assistant coaches Troy Ward and Steve O'Rourke are entering the option year of their contracts. Playfair said he's not certain where they stand in terms of job prospects for next year, but said he'd like to work with both of them again.
When Playfair accepted the Heat's top job in 2009, he said his goal was to re-establish himself as a head coach. He'd served as the Flames' bench boss in 2006-07, before being replaced by Mike Keenan and taking on an associate coaching role.
Playfair has stated in the past that his goal is to return to the NHL as a head coach, but he indicated Tuesday that he'd consider other roles.
"My passion is to be a head coach, and that hasn't changed," he said. "But I think if somebody comes and talks to me, I'm going to listen to what they have to say, depending on what the opportunity is.
"It's defined by a couple things – what is your role, what's the definition of it? Which organization is it, where are they? I think it's all got to be weighed out."