NEWARK, N.J. Los Angeles Kings coach Darryl Sutter demands a lot from his team. And those demands, sometimes, come in higher decibels.
He said, Its your guys job to play and mine to coach. So if you make mistakes, Ive got to coach and that means yelling, Kings defenseman Willie Mitchell said of Sutter, with a laugh. Youre supposed to play, so play well.
The Kings have been playing very well, as evidence by their meteoric trail through the Stanley Cup playoffs to the Final. And much of that credit goes to their coach. The former Blackhawks player and coach has said the right things, pushed the right buttons and found the right formula to get the most of this talented Kings group.
A coach is like a CEO: you need to teach people to develop, right? And he does that really well, Mitchell said. Its not, just do this or that, run your routes, turn your brain off and youre done. Hell say, Were doing this and this is why itll be successful. Is that going to work for you guys? It empowers his players a lot.
And his players say that Sutter is great at knowing when to command and when to commend.
His timing on both sides is good: When you need a kick in the butt he gives you a kick in the butt. When you earn a pat on the back he gives you a pat on the back, said Colin Fraser, who added that Sutter allows players to spread their wings and play to their strengths. He shows that the way he goes four lines. For a fourth liner like myself, having been on the other side and not playing much, that gives you confidence. As long as youre playing well and doing your job, he lets you go.
The results speak for themselves. The Kings were a talented group from the start this season but sputtered under former coach Terry Murray. Sutter was hired in mid-December and the Kings starting putting things together.
The Kings landed the eighth place spot in the West, finishing third in the neck-and-neck Pacific Division. But they quickly learned how to defeat the rest of their conference by focusing on their game, not their seed. It would be easy for the Kings to buckle under the pressure of their amazing run, to revel in their accomplishments and lose sight of the big prize. But Sutter doesnt let that happen. Its all about the next game, not the previous ones.
Its already worn off, even though it was a big win, Kings defenseman Drew Doughty said of the Game 1 victory euphoria. We have to go into the next game like the series is starting all over again. Darryl will make sure (that focus) doesnt slide.
Sutters focus has been especially critical for the Kings younger players.
Hes intense on game days. Hes into it. And when you see that, what are the young guys going to do? Theyre going to fall in line, said Mitchell. Its been huge for our younger players. Guys who have been around a little bit, youre prepared for this. But sometimes, young guys dont understand that, or you just dont get it at that point. Hes a guy who makes you get it.
The Kings are three victories away from their franchises first Stanley Cup, but they wont be thinking past Game 2. Their coach demands that level of focus. The Kings have responded with a higher level of game.
Hes a motivator, defenseman Matt Greene said. He does a lot to get the best out of guys, get guys going. He makes sure you know how important each shift is, every second of each shift. He demands a lot from you and demands a lot of respect coming back his way. Hes got it.