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A Simple Sutter To Guide the Kings

Kings' general manager Dean Lombardi and new head coach Darryl Sutter at a new conference announcing Sutter's hiring. (Getty Images/Used with permission)
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I’ve heard many adjectives used to describe new Kings’ head coach Darryl Sutter: intense, fiery, genius, disciplinarian, tyrant. But the one thing I didn’t expect from Sutter was to see someone unassuming.

For someone with his history and reputation, it’s hard to be unassuming. Just take a look at his resume:

• Head coaching record 409-321-131.
• Coached Chicago Blackhawks from 1992-93 season to 1994-95 season.
• Coached San Jose Sharks from 1997-98 season before being fired by current Kings’ general manager Dean Lombardi at the start of the 2002-03 season.
• Coached Calgary Flames from about a week he was fired from San Jose to 2005-06 season.
• Became Flames general manager from 2003-04 season until resigning on Dec. 28, 2010.
• Took a moribund Flames team and got them to a Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals in 2004 only to lose to the Tampa Bay Lightning right before the work stoppage.
• Teams have qualified for the postseason 10 of his 11 seasons.

In Sutter came into the conference room at the Hilton Garden Inn next door to the Kings’ practice facility in El Segundo. Instead of a pressed suit to sparkle in front of the cameras during the press conference, Sutter opted to wear the same thing he wore during practice in the morning: all black Kings’ warm-up jacket and track pants.

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Even more startling was his presence in front of us scum-sucking media devils. For someone whose known for a scowl and calling players out in postgame media sessions, I didn’t expect him to mumble so much, voice trailing off into the ether with each thought.

“I know it’s been a tough couple of weeks for them, but at the same time I know there’s… We have lots of ground to cover, and I know we’re capable of doing that,” Sutter closed his opening remarks to the media with “capable of doing that” almost inaudible.

But really none of this matters. How Sutter presents himself to us soulless media folk is irrelevant to how the team plays.

Sutter got started Wednesday morning with a team meeting prior to practice at the Toyota Sports Center at 10:30 a.m. Defenseman Matt Greene, who notably scorched the dressing room after the Kings’ 8-2 loss in Detroit on Saturday, seemed uplifted after practice.

“He comes as advertised,” Greene said about Sutter. “You know exactly what you’re going to get out of him. He’ll tell you if you’re not doing it. What you see is what you get.”

Team captain Dustin Brown was very direct about his vision of the Sutter-led Kings.

“I don’t think there’s going to be any nights where you see players take nights off. It’s happened too much around here. I don’t think you’re going to be seeing any of that.”

Of all things I’ve heard from the Kings this season, that statement by the Captain was the starkest and most startling one by far. It’s clear that the Kings need accountability by the truckloads. But Sutter tried to downplay his reputation. Sutter describes his own methods as “honest, firm, trying to get the most out of them.” And as for his disciplinarian ways, “I think it usually gets blown out of proportion. I think as long as we’re on the same page with it, it’s really not that big of a deal.”

Of course the operative phrase is, “as long as we’re on the same page with it.”

There was one sentence that Sutter said that stuck with me. “We’ll all be better tomorrow than we are today if we work at it.” There is a simplicity in it that explained his wardrobe and his speech patterns. He’s a simple guy, and he expects everyone to work their asses off to get better.

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Whether it will work is anyone’s guess (with an emphasis on the word “guess.”) It can’t hurt to have a different voice leading the team. But as much as Sutter tried to downplay his past, it should be entertaining watching him guide the team.