L.A. story for Sutter?
Close to taking job with Kings
ERIC FRANCIS, QMI Agency
|Darryl Sutter. (DARREN MAKOWICHUK/QMI Agency)
CALGARY - Darryl Sutter is a simple “yes” away from returning to the NHL as coach of the Los Angeles Kings.
A source close to the situation confirmed the former Calgary Flames coach and GM has been asked by Kings GM Dean Lombardi if he’ll take over from interim coach John Stevens.
If he answers affirmatively, it would be the first thing anyone in the hockey world has heard from Sutter in almost a calendar year, which makes his return all the more surprising.
Since being fired as GM of the Flames last Christmas the 53-year-old executive went underground, disappearing from the game that once dominated his life.
Put out to pasture with a big severance cheque and a trail of nasty editorials blaming him for the sizeable hole he’d left the franchise in, Sutter retreated to his family’s homestead in Viking, Alta., to resume farming.
Refusing to answer any of the hundreds of phone calls from lowly media types, Sutter opted not to respond publicly to the ousting and hasn’t been quoted ever since.
Many figured his NHL career was over.
Holding a grudge the size of a hay bale, he still hasn’t spoken to his brother Brent who remained on as head coach in Calgary. It speaks to the dysfunctional way in which Sutter ran the Flames as GM.
He hasn’t been spotted in any rinks around the NHL nor has he been connected to any of the previous coaching vacancies this year.
Then along came his fiercely loyal pal, Lombardi, who desperately needs someone to light a fire under his underachieving team.
Lighting fires is what Darryl Sutter does best.
While the Flames will spend years putting out some of the blazes he lit as a GM, the Flames owe much of their financial resurrection to his coaching abilities.
That must be said.
He turned this franchise around faster than anyone ever fathomed was possible, pushing a rag-tag bunch of muckers to within one game of the Stanley Cup final in 2004.
His record in San Jose, where Lombardi last hired Sutter, saw the team improve all five years under his guidance, and he has a 107-73-26 record as coach here.
In Calgary, his act as a miserable taskmaster who couldn’t differentiate between winning and being a human being, wore thin with the players who were thrilled he finally booted himself upstairs to be GM.
The question is, can his ball-breaking, reign-of-terror approach work in today’s NHL?
Most think it can’t since the players make too much money, wield too much influence and need to be treated with more respect — something Sutter rarely afforded any of the people who worked around him, on or off the ice.
What’s more, can a man who has been away from the NHL completely for a year simply jump back in and be effective?
It’s clearly a desperate act for Lombardi who has already gone through two coaches and is on the hook should his latest hire fail.
He’s seen Sutter turn things around before, and clearly he beleives the confidence a man of Sutter’s ilk is what his band of underachievers need to be one of the elite teams it was pegged as this fall.
One other question that needs to be asked: Is it possible Sutter can change?
Mike Keenan did in Calgary to a certain degree, but it didn’t work with the Flames.
It’s likely we’re about to find out whether it can work in L.A.
All that’s needed is for Sutter to speak up for the first time in a year to make it happen.