When Darryl Sutter speaks, Kings listen
MAY 22, 2014 10:00p ET
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Some coaches wear their heart on their sleeve. They blow up at officials and fire their teams up when they do so. They blow up at their teams in the locker room, looking for a response as overt as the initiation.
But then there is Darryl Sutter. With him, it's a multitude of facial expressions.
Sutter twists and contorts his face like no other. The Bitter Beer face, the confused-by-the-question face, the face he makes when he's completely ignoring a question, and the looming glare he gives his players when things aren't going well.
He needs no words, they know the face.
"When Darryl doesn't come in and say too much, that means he's mad at us," defenseman Drew Doughty said after Wednesday's Game 2 win over the Blackhawks. "That tells us we're not playing well and we need to do something about it."
The Los Angeles dressing room is sometimes as tight-lipped and stone-faced as the CIA. The Kings have playoff secrets to protect and it all starts at the top with Sutter. His postgame press conferences are sometimes a comedy of errors, with him mumbling about litter and talking about horse racing before the actual game.
But more often than not, Sutter spends most of the time relishing in the awkward pauses. He fiercely protects his players by saying next to nothing about them, injured or healthy. Somewhat unconventional, his methods are effective. Sutter truly gets the most out of his players, even if it means getting under their skin to pull out that extra drive.
"He's just staring at us in the room and making little comments like 'Oh, (Jonathan) Toews is the best player in the world' or things like that," Doughty said. "Then we know he's not happy and we need to do something about it."
"Quite honestly, you hear about all these big speeches that coaches make and all that. You know what, the players are getting the hell beat out of them, they're sweating and bleeding. They don't need, quite honestly, all that," Sutter said. "They don't need some coach coming in there yelling and hollering... If there's something to be said, it's honest, get it out. It's not some great words or some great rallying cry between periods."
Sutter is a coach that has only recently found his stride in the playoffs. He was once thought to be a coach that needed to learn how to make adjustments. Maybe that was the case with past teams but with this team, that's not the case.
This Kings team boasts a team of proven winners, a team that knows what it takes to win and how and win to make adjustments. Unflinching in his belief in their system, he inspires his players to buy in as well.
So unwilling to change anything, he didn't toy with the roster or the lineups after being shelled in the first two games by San Jose. Now more than a month later, the Kings are not only still standing, their still in it, tied 1-1 with the defending champion Blackhawks in the Western Conference Finals.
"We believed in our goal. Doesn't change," Sutter said. "We didn't have much support in the San Jose series. It was kind of just waiting to see when we were going to get beat out. We don't play by that rule. If we lose, we got beat, it's not like we beat ourselves. And that's a good way to do it."
The Kings ability to come back in tough games and in tough series doesn't come from impassioned speeches. It's sticking to their system and believing in their leadership.
"We just don't give up," Doughty said. "We have a lot of heart, we have a lot of will. As a team we have such great chemistry on and off the ice that when we get put in those positions we believe in every single one of each other. We believe we can come back, we believe we can win the game."