Friday, March 09, 2007


"Hey Coach, why the long face?"

I was saving this post header for the day Playfair got fired, but eh, what the hell...

Is there two Jim Playfairs? Because one of them I like. That would be the one that the players often talk about as a good teacher and a clear communicator; the one I hear in longer one-on-one radio interviews who's genial, frank, confident, and even kind of funny.

The other Jim Playfair -- here we go -- I have come to simply loathe. That would be the one who stands behind the bench with that ridiculous curl; the one who taps his teeth with his fingers, and has an expression that suggests he's waiting on biopsy results; the one who gives convoluted, barely-English answers at press scrums, in the manner of someone who's taking their MBA from a particularly lousy online college; and now, the one who scratches healthy Matthew Lombardi from the lineup for a road game against a potential playoff opponent who they haven't beat since Roman Turek was between the pipes.

I understand that sometimes you have to send a message to a player, even if it's to the short-term detriment of the team, but that was a terrible move. I didn't really catch the audio for the beginning of the game, so all I heard was a bit of mumbling about Lombardi being benched on Tuesday. Then the game progresses a bit, don't see him out there... camera pans across the forwards on the bench... hmmm, there's Friesen, Godard, Nilson, Amonte, Primeau, Yelle... uhhh... are you fucking serious?!?!

Lombardi had his rear stapled to the bench for most of the St. Louis game. If he has a this'll-show-you-Coach-you-asshole performance in him, wouldn't it be more useful last night than at home on Saturday night? (Flames are 10-1-1 in their last 12 on HNIC). Is there any circumstances under which the Flames are a better team without Lombardi? (Hint: no.)

The upside, such as it is, is that my disgust at last night's craptacular result was somewhat mitigated by how pissed I was at the coach (although it's agonizing to have wasted what was probably Jarome Iginla's best game of the year, and that's saying something).

Roman Hamrlik played what might have been the worst game by an NHL defenseman not wearing the copper-and-blue this season. He was on the ice for the first and third Nashville goals. On the 4th, he made the boneheaded play of the year: down 3-2, 3-on-5 PK, own zone faceoff with 10 seconds left in the period, and Yelle wins it; Hamrlik gets the puck behind the net, and... feathers it up the boards to Shea Weber? Did that really happen? And for the 5th (coffin nail) Nashville goal, Hamrlik was in the box for his 3rd minor of the night. Huzzah! Man, when the Hammer is bad, he is baaaad.

Yelle's giveaway on the 2nd Nashville goal was brutal, more for the fact that it was less of a stupid play than a lazy one... chipping the puck ahead with one hand on your stick is a play for Ilya Kovalchuk trying to give himself a breakaway, not for a solid, veteran defensive centre in traffic.

To match last season's almost-mediocre road record, the Flames merely need to go 6-1-1 in their final 8. Whatever -- although I think if they're serious about winning the NW Division, it might be time for the coach to ice his best possible lineup every night.

Postscript: Have you seen Lombardi off the ice? As pro athletes go, he definitely strikes me as the sensitive type. He was on After Hours after the Canucks game last month, and sufficiently uncomfortable that he was doing the ol' "right arm straight, rub right elbow with left hand" -- if they had been standing, he would have been staring at his feet and kicking imaginary dirt.

The sensitive types can get complacent just as easily as the owly types, but I can't avoid the conclusion that this follow-up scratch was less about Playfair persisting with his message...
"Matthew has to be a lot better player for us, he has to be a lot more of an impact player for us. He has to utilize his strength and we expect him to do that."

...and more about Lombardi's quoted reaction to his in-game benching:
"It happens. What are you gonna do?" said Lombardi. "We won the game, that's what counts."

As the team enters the final stretch, Lombardi said no one is about to rock the boat because of things like ice time.

Was Playfair expecting a reaction like Tony Amonte's last month?
Even a couple of days later, he was seething. "What do you think my reaction would be?" Amonte had snapped Tuesday morning. "That's a bad question. Do you think I'm happy about it? I'm definitely not happy about it. I've got a lot of pride. I take a lot of pride in the game and in the way I play. No, I'm not happy."

And would that prove anything anyway? (Amonte is 11GP, 1-3-4, -2 since that scratch; same or a bit worse than his season to that point.)


I too am annoyed by the Lombardi benching. The message was sent in St. Louis, why weaken the team against a superior foe for the sake of reinforcing it?

I make no bones about my dislike of Playfair. He's the weakest link on this team, I'd love to see him go.

What's Brent Sutter up to...

I don't dislike Playfair at all. Everyoen compares him to Sutter, but every team Sutter coached seemed to tune him out at some point.
I think Playfair is just struggling a bit on how to handle things when he used to be able to be the "good guy" but now the buck stops with him. These aren't AHLers trying to make the show, this is the show.

I think its maybe time to look at the whole coaching staff and examine some weak spots. Defensively they're not as strong as last year, what's changed? Personnel, Performance, or Scheme? Penalty killing has been bad all year; are there coaching issues related to this? Kipper isn't as good this year, are there coaching issues here? Its frustrating to watch the team struggle on the road all year, without Playfair being able to diagnose and fix whatever is wrong, or at least for the team to improve. I'm not calling for his head, but JP's leash is probably getting shorter.

Penalty killing has been bad all year; are there coaching issues related to this?

Penalty killing is a strange beast. Goaltedning is usually an underrated part of it, but the Flames should have that covered.

If I had to guess, I'd say it's pretty susceptible to bad luck in general. Of course the Flames have probably had their share of good luck with a heaping helping of shorties.

I am shocked that the Flames lost in nsh. I mean the Preds are garbage at home, the flames traditionally own that franchise plus cgy is just a super road team

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