EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — With a Stanley Cup title and two conference championship appearances since Darryl Sutter took over as coach in December of 2011, the Kings have earned their place among the NHL’s elite.
Once an afterthought, they’re now 12-1 favorites to win their second Stanley Cup in three seasons and picked fourth by oddsmakers behind defending champion Chicago, Pittsburgh and Boston.
Center Colin Fraser — after acknowledging the wealth of talent on his team — started laughing when discussing about man he feels deserves the most credit for the Kings’ surge — his coach, Darryl Sutter.
“He’s a kick-your-ass type of coach,” Fraser said with a laugh, “but I think it’s a good thing when players respect their coach, to see his intensity and to know that he’s been successful on both sides.
“He’s been a coach for a while in the league but he also played for a long time, so he’s seen both sides of the coin. I think that helps get the most out of your players. He’s a smart man and he does push your buttons — but in a good, positive way.”
Looking at Sutter, you’d never know there was anything positive to it.
Most of the time during media sessions, he seems like he’d rather be swimming in a pool full of jellyfish rather than dealing with one more question from a reporter. Blunt to the point of making some uncomfortable, Sutter rarely smiles and the term “all business” had to be invented with him in mind.
Yet, like Fraser, if you ask most of Sutter’s players what they think of him as a coach, their answers are unanimous — he’s the perfect guy for the Kings.
“I think Darryl did a tremendous job and I’ve loved playing for him as a player,” former Kings’ defenseman Rob Scuderi told NHL.com after they fell short of a second straight Stanley Cup appearance.
Now with Pittsburgh, Scuderi says that Sutter is the type of coach who gets a great feel for the mind-set of the players and uses it to build the best possible team.
“He knows how to counteract or work with (the way the team is thinking), and I’ve really enjoyed playing for him. You can’t overlook the job that Darryl and the coaching staff (did).”
Sutter is one of six brothers who played in the NHL — Darryl actually coached his brother Ron when both were members of the San Jose Sharks — and has always been considered one of the brightest hockey coaches in the sport.
Sutter’s seen the game from nearly every side you can view it, which Fraser says gives Sutter an advantage other head coaches just don’t have.
“There isn’t a thing he hasn’t seen and he’s prepared us for any situation we might run into,” said the Kings’ center. “He makes us better players all around.”
“I don’t know about all that,” Sutter added. “I just get them as ready to play as I possibly can. Sometimes as a team you have to overcome injuries, mistakes. It’s my job to have them ready to play no matter the circumstances.
“This is a good team and we’ll hopefully be making a run at another Cup. There’s a lot of talent here.”
Including Sutter, who’s only missed the playoffs once in 13 full seasons as a head coach.