Sutter brings new attitude to struggling Kings
DAVE HILSON, QMI Agency
|Darryl Sutter. (DARREN MAKOWICHUK/QMI Agency)
TORONTO - The struggling Los Angeles Kings aren’t looking for miracles when former Calgary Flames coach and GM Darryl Sutter takes over behind the bench, but they are hoping he can bring a much-needed attitude adjustment to this pack of NHL underperformers.
The 53-year-old Sutter, known for his hard-nosed ways, signed a contract with the Kings a few days after bench boss Terry Murray was fired last Monday, but he likely won’t take over as head coach until a home game Thursday against the Anaheim Ducks. The Viking, Alta., native has needed to time wrap up personal business and receive proper immigration clearance before taking over the coaching duties.
It’s expected that Sutter, who signed a multi-year deal with the Kings, will be announced as head coach at a Tuesday news conference in Los Angeles.
Sutter, who has an overall head coaching record of 409-320-131 with three different clubs, inherits a talented team that has not performed up to expectations, struggling to score and often looking indifferent.
The Kings currently sit outside a Western Conference playoff spot, and heading into their game Monday night against the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Centre, they had dropped seven of 10 games and were tied for the fewest goals in the league with 69.
Whether Sutter’s gruff ways will sit well with the young Kings remains to be seen, but veteran Jarret Stoll, a veteran presence on the team, believes an attitude adjustment couldn’t hurt.
“He’s going to bring character, and he’s going to bring an attitude that I think we need in here,” Stoll said of Sutter. “Our attitude is … some games it’s right, and some games it’s not. He’s a guy that has a lot of respect amongst a lot of players and coaches and general managers in this league. And we’re going to be a lot harder team to play against under Darryl, so we’re looking forward to seeing him in L.A. I’m sure there’s going to be a lot of meetings going on back home just sorting this team out.”
It might be a lot to expect from a guy who hasn’t coached since 2006 to take over a struggling bunch of underachievers and get them sorted in time to make a playoff run, but long-time friend Dean Lombardi, the Kings GM, must have felt he was the right man for the job. And Stoll seems to agree.
“He’s going to bring an attitude that we need around here — just a hard, grinding, gritty style,” the Melville, Sask., native said. “It’s going to be tough. It’s not going to be easy. We have our work cut out for us — we know that. We put ourselves in this situation — we’re looking forward to it, though. It’s a big challenge, but we have the guys in here that can stand up to it and make it happen.”
It’s the fourth coaching change for the Kings in the past six seasons, but sniper Anze Kopitar says it’s up to the players to go about the business of playing and let the other things work themselves out.
“We have to keep focusing on hockey and not get distracted,” Kopitar said. “Obviously, it’s a big change every time a new face comes in. You just have to play your game and focus on things you are doing on the ice.”
John Stevens took over as interim coach when Murray was fired and will likely see his last game as head man against the Maple Leafs. Stevens is expected to stay on the Kings staff under Sutter.
“The coach never should have been fired in the first place,” star defenceman Drew Doughty said of Murray’s dismissal. “It was our fault — we weren’t playing the way he was telling us to play, and we didn’t do the things that made us win games.”
Sutter led the Flames to the seventh game of the Stanley Cup finals in 2004. He retired from coaching in 2006 but remained on as GM before being forced to resign from the post with the Flames last December.
“Whenever Darryl comes in, obviously, we’re going to be excited to meet him and see his different techniques for coaching,” Doughty added.