SUN Hockey Pool

Sutter farmed out to the Kings

Former Calgary Flames GM, Darryl Sutter. (QMI Agency files)

Former Calgary Flames GM, Darryl Sutter. (QMI Agency files)

ERIC FRANCIS, QMI AGENCY

, Last Updated: 11:01 PM ET

TORONTO — It’s commonly believed only one man alive was going to give Darryl Sutter another chance to coach in the NHL again: His longtime pal, Los Angeles Kings GM Dean Lombardi.

That fact — and the fact Sutter never openly campaigned to return to the league — partially explains why it is taking so long for Sutter to get his house in order before joining the Kings on Monday or, more likely, on Tuesday.

Sutter has been running a multi-million dollar calving operation in Viking, Alta., the last year with over 200 cows and needed time to find a ranch-hand to run it for him, amongst other issues.

Once he arrives, the question is whether the ball-breaking taskmaster has the ability to coach and communicate effectively in a league that has changed plenty since he last worked a bench in 2006.

Who better to ask than old-school colleague Ken Hitchcock, who admits he had to change his approach when taking over the St. Louis Blues last month?

“You have to change the way you deal with players,” said Hitchcock, known previously for being as hard on players as Sutter.

“You have to gently nudge when critiquing.

“Players are tougher and more demanding on themselves, and if you’re tough on them, it’s like piling on.

“During the game, things haven’t changed, but it’s the off-days you have to change.

“By the time I get into the rink the next day, they’ve already seen themselves on video.

“The off-time used to be about rest and relaxing, but now it’s review, review, review.”

Does Hitchcock think Sutter can adapt and be successful turning around the Kings?

“I can tell you from coaching against him, his teams didn’t take many shifts off and they compete at a high level,” Hitchcock said.

Crumpling a new trend?

Heading into the season, Terry Gregson warned all NHL officials to watch for — and crack down on — head-snapping aimed at drawing penalties.

It hasn’t been a problem, though.

Instead, the latest concern is ‘crumpling.’

“We thought there’d be more head-snapping, but we found now guys are doing it along the boards. They’re crumpling, and that’s worse because when referees only have that real-time snapshot of the hit — and no benefit of slow-motion replays — it makes it hard,” said NHL director of officiating Gregson.

“You don’t want to give guys a diving penalty for embellishment and then find out he has a separated shoulder — you’d look like an arse.”

Also, refs have been instructed to pay attention to their instincts in terms of what they call “situational awareness.”

For example, Carolina Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford feels the hit Edmonton Oilers’ Andy Sutton delivered to concuss Jeff Skinner would not have been possible had officials given the Oil defenceman two minutes and a misconduct for his hit on Alexei Ponikarovsky earlier (it went unpenalized).

Things were escalating in a game that was getting out of control, and officials have been advised to go with their gut on whether it’s just easier to sit a few guys with misconducts as tempers start to flare and play gets edgy.

That said, when refs do that, Gregson seems to get phone calls from GMs the next day suggesting his officials were overzealous.

As always, it seems the referees can never win.

RINK WIDENING

In an effort to cut down on concussions, many have trotted out the age-old idea of widening the rink to give guys more room on international-sized ice.

It’s a non-starter with NHL executives.

One exec estimated it would cost upwards of US$12 million to retrofit his rink — a cost every team in the league would have to swallow to varying degrees. That doesn’t include the lost revenue in premium rink-side seats you’d lose.

Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford says the cost might actually be worth it, but there’s no proof international-sized ice would help reduce concussions because the European leagues don’t sport as good or as fast of hockey as the NHL.

In fact, while it would give more room for players to avoid contact, some think an argument could be made that it would allow for more speed, producing even more violent collisions.


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