You bet Anze Kopitar started to hear stories about Darryl Sutter when it became obvious the Los Angeles Kings were going to hire him as head coach midway through this season.
The Kings star centre sought them out.
“I heard some different reviews from different people,” Kopitar said. “I talked to Scott Thornton, who played for him in San Jose, and Denis Gauthier ,who played for him in Calgary, and I got the idea what Darryl’s all about.
“It didn’t take long for everybody in here to find out what kind of coach he is. I don’t think it was too hard of an adjustment, and it’s been good for us.”
Can’t argue the end result. Since Sutter — the former Flames head coach and long-time GM who was forced to resign midway through the 2010-11 campaign — went behind the bench in Hollywood, the Kings turned their fortunes.
Heading into Saturday night’s tilt with the Flames at the Staples Center, the Kings had a 12-6-7 record with Sutter at the helm.
And the recipe is one we all saw in the Stampede City: Lean heavily on the stars, especially a great goalie in Jonathan Quick, and the skaters who can do the job at both ends of the ice.
That especially includes Kopitar, the 24-year-old from Slovenia who is pacing the team in goals and points.
“He told me he wants everybody, not just me, to be a better player, and will push to the limits,” said the 11th overall pick in the 2005 draft. “That’s what you want. He gives you an opportunity to be the best you can.
“We just have to score some more goals and put up some more points.”
Ah yes, the great bugaboo for the Kings this season.
Prior to Saturday’s action, Los Angeles had the NHL’s lowest scoring team, with just 2.07 goals per game.
By comparison, the league’s top five clubs in that category — Philadelphia, Boston, Vancouver, Detroit and Chicago — were all above three goals per game. The Flames were 25th at 2.38.
Why the Kings have struggled so much to light the lamps is as mysterious as to why so much attention is paid to the Kardashian clan.
“There’s plenty of talent in this room, that’s for sure,” Kopitar said.
“I don’t think anybody knows the answer, because we’d do something about it. We’re trying, working and getting chances, but the bounces aren’t going the right way and not finishing them off.
“We have to find it in a hurry.”
Keeping the Kings alive has been Quick, who has flourished under the Miikka Kiprusoff-like minutes, being among the league leaders in goal-against average, save percentage and shutouts, all while under the pressure of knowing his team isn’t likely to put up a touchdown’s worth of goals.
But, you have to wonder whether all the talk of not enough offence is starting to become a sell-fulfilling prophecy for the Kings, who risk starting to believe they can’t score more.
“Everybody knows what he has to do to score goals, where you have to go on the ice. After that, it’s just finishing,” Kopitar said.