Darryl Sutter and the Calgary Flames were bounced in the first round of the playoffs last season. ((Jack Dempsey/Associated Press))

Darryl Sutter is stepping down as head coach of the Calgary Flames and will be replaced by assistant Jim Playfair.

The Flamesconfirmed the move, which had been anticipated for some time,at a Wednesday morning news conference.

Sutter, who will retain his other job as Flames general manager, had previously hinted he would one day relinquish the coaching duties, citing the difficulty of doing both jobs.

Sutter, 47, led the Flames tothe 2004 Stanley Cup final,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.

Sutter became coach of the Flames in 2002 after stints as the bench boss in Chicago and San Jose, adding theGM title in 2003.He compiled a 107-73-26 record in two-plus seasons behind the Calgary bench.

Playfair, 42, has spent the past three seasons as a Flames assistant after two-plus seasons as head coach of the Flames' American Hockey Leagueaffiliate in Saint John. He ledthe AHL Flames to the Calder Cup title in 2001.

"It's a great opportunity, coaching in the National Hockey League and coaching in a Canadian city," Playfair said.

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

Playfair inherits a team that added former Colorado Avalanche winger Alex Tanguay during the recent NHL Entry Draft, a much-needed boost to an offence that was 27th in the league during the 2005-06season.

Also Wednesday, Calgary hired former Canadian national team coach Wayne Fleming as an assistant.Fleming spent last season as an assistantcoachwith the Philadelphia Flyers underKen Hitchcock, but wanted a new challenge.

"It became very clear to me [during the hiring process] that this is a place I really wanted to be," said Fleming. "With the commitment that the Calgary Flames show to winning, it was a very easy choice to make."

With files from the Canadian Press