Those of you watching the NHL playoffs may see a somewhat familiar face behind the bench for the Los Angeles Kings. That’d be former Calgary Flames head coach and general manager Darryl Sutter, once again at the helm of an improbable underdog team.
Sutter’s hiring in December was a head-scratcher to analysts at the time, and it certainly was to me. The Kings were a sound defensive team who struggled offensively. While that fits the profile of almost any Darryl Sutter team, one would have thought that the Kings would go away from a defensive-minded coach to someone who could have helped their underachiving scorers.
Initially, there was only a slightly improvement with the new coach, and the Kings managed to sneak into the postseason in the 8th spot. But Sutter’s team has improved in the playoffs, with the coach leading the Kings to two impressive series’ wins over the Vancouver Canucks and the St. Louis Blues.
The Kings’ success with Darryl Sutter at the helm reminds us just what a good coach Sutter was for a time in Calgary. He’s managed to motivate underachievers like Dustin Penner and Jeff Carter, and matches up lines very well on a deep Kings team. This isn’t to say that him leaving the bench for Calgary was wrong, however. Sutter’s history shows short term success, before eventually wearing on his charges. That was fine for the Flames at the time- they hadn’t sniffed real success in years, and Sutter was an important part of that deep playoff run in ’04. And while we can’t say for sure that Sutter would have worn out his welcome, his history with the Chicago Blackhawks and San Jose Sharks suggest that his intense style would have gotten him booted out eventually.
While the Flames take their time looking for a new bench boss- one assumes they’re waiting for the season to play out to see who’s available- we can take a moment to fondly recall the successes of seasons past. And while his track record as a GM was spotty, there’s no denying how important Darryl Sutter was as a coach to the Flames. We only need to watch the Kings to see proof of his acumen behind the bench.