December 4, 2012

Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer

Pirates Coach Ray Edwards confers with Sean Burke, Phoenix’s assistant GM and goalie coach, while Pirates assistant coach Mike Minard works on a computer.

Keeping an eye on the farm

By Paul Betit
Staff Writer

Because of the NHL lockout, members of the Phoenix Coyotes' coaching staff are getting better acquainted with the organization's minor league players.

Jim Playfair, an associate coach who works primarily with the Phoenix defenseman, and Sean Burke, an assistant to the NHL team's general manager who works with the goalies, are spending a few days with the Pirates, which neither could have done if the Coyotes were playing.

"Basically, what we're doing in Portland right now is to get an overall view of where players are and, once we do get going, which players can come into training camp immediately and make a push for our team." Playfair said.

Entering its 80th day, the lockout has resulted in the cancellation of 422 regular-season games.

"I think it's important for the players down here to see the management in Phoenix is into what they're doing and (that) we're trying to help them move their careers along, move their development along," said Playfair, a former head coach of the Calgary Flames who spent parts of three seasons in the NHL.

It is the second trip to Portland this season for Burke, who spent 18 seasons playing in the NHL.

"Quite honestly, with four new goalies in our organization, it's been a good opportunity to spend some time to get to know them," Burke said.

Goalies Mark Visentin, Mike Lee and Louis Domingue are first-year pros, while veteran Chad Johnson spent the last three seasons with the New York Rangers organization. Currently, Visentin, Lee and Johnson are assigned to the Pirates, while Domingue plays for the Gwinnett Gladiators, the Coyotes' ECHL affiliate in Georgia.

"This year, the (AHL) team really has become more of the focus, just because we have the time to do it and we have the ability to do it," Burke said. "It's been a good chance for me to know all our players."

Playfair said the Phoenix coaching staff has had to continually revamp plans for the start-up of NHL season.

"Early on in the season, we were planning training camp with different scenarios," he said. "The first one was obviously the main training camp and then the next one was a 10-day training camp, and we went down to a five-day training camp."

At this point, it appears the best plan is to have no plan at all.

"Basically, you don't plan to do very much because you keep thinking we're going to start," Playfair said. "It's really not a situation where you look too far ahead. You can only plan within the week to make sure you're ready to go."

Because of the lockout, Playfair and Burke have had time to go watch their sons play junior hockey.

Brendan Burke, 18, is a goalie in his second season with the Portland Winterhawks in the Western Hockey League and Jackson Playfair, 18, is a right wing in his first season with the WHL's Spokane Chiefs.

Playfair also has had time to help coach his 15-year-old son Austin's Triple-A midget team in Phoenix.

"If we did get to start playing hockey in the next couple of weeks, we at least had this part of the season to spend some time with our young players," Burke said.

"Whatever happens now, we've let (them) know we've taken a real interest and watched them more than we've been able to do in any other type of season."

Staff Writer Paul Betit can be contacted at 791-6424 or at:

Twitter: PaulBetitPPH

Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer

Jim Playfair, near, a Phoenix associate coach, works with Pirates assistant coach John Slaney as they analyze recent Pirates games.

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