The Los Angeles Kings have had the most successful chapter in team history under coach Darryl Sutter, but following a first-round playoff exit this season, there are questions about whether or not Sutter will be back behind the bench next season. Make no mistake, though: it’s not because the Kings don’t want him.
Sutter coached the Kings to two Stanley Cups in his first three seasons behind the bench and the smothering, puck possession style of play he has established in Los Angeles has made the franchise incredibly successful. And while the past two years have been disappointing — the Kings missed the post-season in 2014-15 and won only one game in their first-round series against the Sharks this past season — Los Angeles GM Dean Lombardi still believes Sutter can get the job done behind the Kings’ bench. The issue, however, is that Sutter’s contract is up and he’s yet to sign a contract extension with the club.
In speaking about the season that was, Lombardi talked philosophically about the challenges that lie ahead for the Kings. Per L.A. Kings Insider’s Jon Rosen, Lombardi said that what the Kings have built worked in the past, but in a league where things are often imitated, other teams have ridden similar philosophies as the Kings and it has levelled the playing field. Now, Lombardi said, is time for the Kings to recapture “the innovation, the spark, the challenge that was there seven years ago and we were coming from the gutter.”
And Lombardi said he wants Sutter to be a part of the process if he’s willing to take the lumps that may come with reinvigorating a team that has only won one playoff game since capturing their second Stanley Cup two seasons ago.
“Darryl certainly has an offer on the table,” Lombardi said, via Rosen. “I think you understand his personality and things, and I think it’s smart…I think this is ‘OK, are we ready to do this?’ Because there’s going to be a lot of work, and just like building it in the past, you have to stick with some tough times. Like I said, we’re not going back (to the tough times), but make no mistake, for us to get this back on track, there are going to be some minor punches in the gut, too, as we fight our way through.”
Lombardi said he believes the situation in Los Angeles to be a good one for Sutter and his family, that the financial terms of the contract won’t be an issue and added the most important thing is whether or not Sutter is willing to buy in to the changes Lombardi and Co. want to make moving forward.
Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman reported Saturday that Sutter acknowledged he is still deciding on his future with the Kings and wants to "see what the Kings will look like through free agency, the cap and its prospects." Sutter told Friedman his family's enjoyment of Los Angeles will play a part in his choice whether or not to return. So while it’s still to be seen whether Sutter is back or not, but the one thing that’s certain is Lombardi has a new vision for the Kings and he’s determined to get them back into the winner’s circle.
“I think it’s safe to say when I brought him here that we had great experience building,” Lombardi said, via Rosen. “We knew what we wanted and knew what we do. I think part of the problem is, like I said, the safety in doing things the same way after you’ve won, and this is a little – it’s not scary, but you see now what’s happened. We know we’re not where we want to be.”