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Can you argue with the results?
In his time as L.A.’s bench boss, Sutter has won two Stanley Cups in three seasons, with his one Western Conference Final loss facilitated by a mess of key injuries (Doughty, Richards, Brown, Williams, Stoll, Mitchell, Greene).
Sutter’s team plays a tough, heavy, possession-oriented style that isn’t always pretty and can prove woefully inconsistent in the regular season. It won’t bring home a Presidents’ Trophy or rev up the hype machine the way the Chicago Blackhawks or Pittsburgh Penguins can.
With that said, it sure is successful.
One could cite regular-season records (46-28-8 in 2013-14), but they don’t actually matter to this team. When the playoffs roll around, no one wants to face the Kings because they abide by Sutter’s game plan and just wear opponents down.
Sure, some of his lineup decisions can be head-scratching—Jordan Nolan in the top six was...interesting—and he should sometimes make his in-game adjustments stick in between contests, but this is the most impressive stretch in the organization’s history.
Surely, coaching has played no small part in the team reaching its current purple patch.
Gaborik bought into the team’s system when he was brought on board, Richards accepted a role lower on the depth chart and youngsters Muzzin, Pearson and Toffoli are progressing nicely.
Spreading out the offense may well have been the defining choice in this year’s playoff run, as it simultaneously lightened the burden on the forwards and caused matchup nightmares for opponents.
With Kopitar drawing attention from the other team’s top guns, who can then stack up against lines anchored by Carter, Williams and Richards? As it turns out, no one.
Beyond the personnel, though, Sutter’s impact manifests itself in his steady-as-she-goes attitude.
You’ll never see the Kings whine during postgame interviews or lose their marbles over an entire series. They’re committed to the process and, much like their coach, are never too high or too low.
This much was obvious in one of the toughest postseason runs of all time: Three Game 7s against Western Conference heavyweights, three overtime games in the Stanley Cup Final, wild momentum swings in either direction.
Most teams would have crumbled before this kind of adversity.
Understanding that there will be lost battles in the overarching war, the Kings picked up on Sutter’s calm demeanor and kept their eyes fixed squarely on the prize.