CALGARY - Drew Doughty had heard some of the stories.
Therefore, the Los Angeles Kings defenceman, even though he played for a Brent Sutter-coached junior squad in a Canada-Russia series, was bracing for the worst when Darryl Sutter arrived to take the team’s head coaching job.
“I was almost scared when he was coming in because of all the things we had heard,” Doughty said.
And after a dozen games with Darryl Sutter behind the helm, how does Doughty see him?
“He’s different than what I expected. Coming in, I thought he was going to be really hard on us, yelling at us all the time,” Doughty said.
“He’s awesome. He expects us to be at our best every night, working hard and be tough on players, and that’s what we needed as a coach.”
Not like the Kings have given the former Calgary Flames coach and GM much to yell about since he took over just before Christmas.
Heading into Saturday night’s clash with the Flames at the Saddledome, the Kings had a 6-1-4 mark since Sutter went behind the bench.
This was a team with high expectations going into the season, but it meandered through the first 30 games before Terry Murray was fired.
In came Sutter, the often dour and always intense former Chicago Blackhawks, San Jose Sharks and Flames coach, hired by long-time friend and former Sharks boss Dean Lombardi.
So far, in big part because the young and talented Kings have netted the results most pundits expected to see, it’s been a happy marriage.
“Making the coaching change gave us a wake-up call,” Doughty said.
“It’s our fault we got the old coach fired in the first place. We weren’t playing well and doing the right things.
“A lot also has to do with Darryl. He coaches different from Terry. Terry was more of Xs and Os, and Darryl is more hyped up. He’s almost like one of the guys in the room. He’s pumped up, pumping us up, and that’s exactly what we like.”
Added defenceman Jack Johnson: “He’s a pretty outspoken, passionate guy. It’s just a different approach, not that one’s right or wrong. We haven’t really changed how we’ve played at all.”
If anybody in the Kings dressing room should have had an idea of what to expect with Sutter’s arrival, it’s Colin Fraser, after spending four seasons playing for Brent Sutter with the WHL’s Red Deer Rebels.
Even though the Sutter brothers are different people, they have similarities.
“It’s funny, but the first week Darryl was here, it reminded me of junior, how Brent coached, the tendencies, what they talk about,” Fraser said.
“There’s really not much difference — both are crazy, intense guys.”
Yet, both coaches downplayed the Sutter-versus-Sutter aspect of Saturday’s clash.
“I think it’s status quo, business is business,” Fraser said. “The focus is winning the hockey game, and that’s what we’re worried about.”
To his credit, that’s all the Kings bench boss wanted his team to think about prior to puck drop at the Saddledome.
And if the Kings continue to pile up points at their current rate, all will continue to be happy times in La La Land.
“I think if we’re giving our best effort, that’s all he wants,” Doughty said. “He’s here to help us, wants to make us better players.
“We don’t want to make that slide and see the bad side.”