Los Angeles Kings: 4 Reasons Darryl Sutter Has Made a Huge Impact
Never in 119 years of the Stanley Cup playoffs has a team done what the Los Angeles Kings did this past season.
After taking over a little before the halfway point of the year, Darryl Sutter led his eighth-place Kings past the first, second and third seeds. That's an incredible accomplishment. In beating the Canucks, Blues and Coyotes respectively, they became the first eighth seed to win a cup.
The records didn't stop there either. L.A. became the first team to win 10 straight road playoff games. Again, keep in mind the quality of their opponents. They also became the first team to have a 3-0 lead in each of their series.
When a team in any sport wins in historic fashion, the coach is bound to get some credit. It's rare though to see a team who fired their coach midseason bring someone in who leads them on a run like the one the Kings went on.
Darryl Sutter's impact in L.A. was seen in almost every facet of their game. With that said, let's take a look at four reasons that impact was so huge.
1. His Playing Career and His Family's History Gave Him Immediate Credibility
When one family produces six brothers who play in the NHL, it's safe to say hockey is "in their genes." Yet how many of you knew how productive the Sutter's really were?
Among Darryl, Brian, Duane, Brent, Rich and Ron, not one of them scored less than 139 goals or played less than eight seasons in their careers.
Darryl himself was a hard-working left winger who reached the 20-goal plateau five times. His style as a player and as a coach was a perfect fit for a Kings team that was sorely lacking an identity under Terry Murray.
That style wouldn't necessarily be a good fit with every roster though. Compare the Washington Capitals to the Kings. The Caps' roster, although minus Alexander Semin now, is still loaded with offensive European players. It might have been tougher for him to get them to buy into a hard forechecking, in-your-face attack like the one the Kings featured.
Instead, he was given a team full of grit and physical play that many thought were lacking offensively. Sutter pressed the right buttons with players like Dustin Brown and Drew Doughty.
That only added to the credibility he already had because of who he was and where he came from.
2. His Prior Coaching Success Spoke for Itself
Sutter had three previous coaching stints before being hired in L.A. In 12 seasons behind the bench, he missed the playoffs only once.
Most remember him for leading Calgary on a cinderella run to the Finals in 2004, only to suffer heartbreak at the hands of the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 7. Many give him credit for turning around the franchise, especially after he took over as GM in 2003.
One of his first moves was to acquire goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff early on in the '03-'04 season. He had coached Kiprusoff when Sutter was in San Jose. Miikka went on that year to set a modern NHL record for lowest GAA at 1.69 and remains a cornerstone of the Flames' organization.
Besides his success in Calgary, Sutter took his 1995 Chicago Blackhawks to the Western Conference Finals. In parts of six seasons with the San Jose Sharks, he turned them into a perennial playoff team.
Although his track record didn't include a Stanley Cup championship when the Kings hired him, management and players alike knew they were getting someone used to success.
3. He Made the Kings Play a More Aggressive Brand of Hockey
Under Terry Murray, the Kings did improve dramatically at the defensive end of the ice. Their problem wasn't allowing goals; it was scoring them.
The Kings finished last season not only allowing the second-fewest but also scoring the second-fewest goals league-wide. Although the offensive numbers didn't skyrocket under Sutter, their forecheck took on a much more physically aggressive style.
As John Rosen of FoxSportsWest.com reported in May, before the Kings won the Cup:
The most stark effect Sutter's had on the team is that he has gotten through to his players on the benefits of moving the puck quickly up ice and spending as much time in the attacking zone as possible.
Hockey fans watched the Kings dismantle the top three seeds in the West. They rolled four lines that brought it in the physical department every shift. The emergence of youngsters Dwight King and Jordan Nolan is a credit to Sutter for getting the "kids" on the team to buy in too.
4. Like Good Coaches Do, He Got the Most out of His Star Players
Sutter didn't come into a situation where he had a shortage of talent.
Jonathan Quick had already established himself as an elite goalie, even before his Conn Smythe run. Anze Kopitar was in the midst of his fourth season in five with 70 points. Drew Doughty had already been a Norris Trophy candidate and an Olympic stalwart two years earlier.
What Sutter did do was motivate these three to step their games up to the next level, and each one of them obliged.
Sutter also put former Philadelphia Flyers teammates Mike Richards and Jeff Carter together after the latter was acquired in February from Columbus. They both were integral parts to the Cup run after rather pedestrian efforts from both for much of the regular season.
The biggest effect was seen on Doughty though. A holdout in training camp resulted in an eight-year, $56 million contract for the 22-year-old. Questions persisted after early-season struggles about Doughty's conditioning and preparedness for games.
"Terry was all X's and O's and Darryl's not that at all," Doughty said. "He's all about preparation, hard work and being a man out there. And once I finally understood that, it was easy."
As evidenced by those comments from one of the best young defensemen in the league, Darryl Sutter's impact has been felt throughout the entire Kings' team.