When Darryl Sutter came in to replace Terry Murray last season, he changed the culture in the Los Angeles Kings' organization. Sutter was able to get the Kings back to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 1993, and they did it as the No. 8 seed.
Sutter went 25-13-11 in the regular season, and the Kings dominated the Western Conference playoffs with a 12-2 record before defeating the New Jersey Devils 4-2 in the Stanley Cup Final.
Sutter had been out of coaching for nearly five-and-a-half years when Los Angeles hired him to replace Murray on Dec. 20. As opposed to his last offseason, which Sutter probably spent on his family's farm in Canada, he now has the task of getting the Kings back to the Stanley Cup Final.
The stakes are always high when you coach in L.A., but the bar gets set even higher when your name is preceded by "reigning Stanley Cup champion."
After the franchise captured their first Stanley Cup last season, the Kings' bandwagon will be so full that there will be barley any room to run behind it.
Sutter will be responsible for dealing with the high expectations and leading the Kings back not only to the playoffs, but to consecutive Stanley Cup championships.
However, it will be no easy task. A team has not repeated as champs since the 1997-1998 Detroit Red Wings squads, who were coached by the legendary Scotty Bowman.
The celebrity-laden crowd of Staples Center will not be forgiving. Sutter and the Kings need to perform at a championship-caliber level when the season does eventually start.
Talent Needs to Perform
One of the main gripes against Murray was that he was not getting production out of his top forwards. Sutter is not known as an offensive coach, but he was able to motivate and get the most out of his players.
In an interview with NHL.com, Kings general manager Dean Lombardi said of Sutter, "It's the honesty of the man, the intelligence of the man, and how players that played for him respect him."
The front office brought in Jeff Carter to be reunited with former teammate Mike Richards. After that, the Kings had only five regulation losses in their last 21 games and were able to sneak into the final playoff spot.
The Kings have arguably the best goalie in the NHL in net and talent on lines one through four. Sutter will have to continue to find new ways to motivate the squad. The majority of the team's core is under 30, and there is also an abundance of youth on defense.
The Kings do not want to be paper champions; they want to be hoisting the Cup above their heads for a second consecutive year. If Sutter can record a solid full season as the head coach of the Kings, he may have a job for the next decade or so.
With the players and owners unlikely to reach an agreement anytime soon, the league will miss some regular-season games. This means that the Kings will not have time to lose early in the season and then sneak in to the playoffs during the last week.
Sutter will have to have the team firing on all cylinders from day one; however, this may be hard considering the team is not allowed to have any official skates until a deal is ironed out.
Players deal with the lockout differently. Many attend the informal skates and continue to work out, but the reality is that nothing can prepare a player for the NHL season like training camp and the preseason.
Sutter will have his hands full when the puck drops for the Kings' first regular-season game. The team showed last year that they are slow starters, but that cannot be the case during the 2012-13 season. Teams will bring their best efforts against the champs every night.
If Kings fans hope to hear the sweet sound of Jonathan Quick dropping some F-bombs at another Cup celebration at the end of next season, Sutter will have to keep this gifted, young roster on track.
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