King Sutter: Part One

Los Angeles Kings head coach Darryl Sutter got his second chance at capturing the record for most all-time wins by a coach in team history when the Kings faced the Anaheim Ducks at Staples Center on Saturday afternoon. After coming up short in a 4-1 loss to the Boston Bruins on Thursday, the Kings’ contest against the Ducks marked Sutter’s next opportunity to set the mark. Sutter, who is in his sixth season with the club, tied former Kings head coach Andy Murray with his 215th win after the team’s 2-1 victory over the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday.

The Kings fell behind 1-0 after 40 minutes of play against the Ducks before coming alive in the third period. They tallied three goals in the first 8:05 of the final frame to take a commanding 3-1 lead before Jeff Carter added an empty-netter to secure the victory. With the win, Sutter took sole possession of first place all-time with the Kings in that department.

In this two-part series, we take a closer look at Sutter’s career behind the bench with the Kings. In Part I, we will look back on his first season as head coach in Los Angeles, when he helped fuel a turnaround of the club midway through the 2011-12 regular season and culminated with the Kings winning the first Stanley Cup in franchise history. In Part II, we will continue our retrospective of Sutter’s coaching career in L.A. as he helped the Kings to another Stanley Cup in 2014 and has made them one of the league’s most competitive teams while becoming the most successful head coach in Kings history.

Becoming A King

Darryl Sutter

Sutter had a successful career in 11 seasons in the NHL that began 20 years before being named head coach of the Kings. Sutter was hired on Dec. 17, 2011, after stints with the Chicago Blackhawks, San Jose Sharks, and Calgary Flames. Sutter’s time with the Flames began as head coach but he later held both that position and the general manager post before finally just being the team’s GM.

When Sutter arrived in Los Angeles, he hoped to get back to his roots as head coach and turn around a Kings team that was in 10th place in the Western Conference at the time.

On Dec. 22, he made his debut behind the bench against their divisional and in-state rival, the Ducks. The Kings defeated the Ducks 2-1 in a shootout that night and Sutter helped lead them to a 25-13-11 record in the remaining 49 games of the season. The team’s huge turnaround resulted in earning a playoff berth in the last game of the regular season, finishing third in the Pacific Division.

Historic Stanley Cup Run

Jonathan Quick
(Photo By: Andy Martin Jr)

The Kings began the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs as the last seed in the Western Conference, matched up against the Vancouver Canucks. The Canucks were the first seed in the Western Conference and had won the President’s Trophy.

The Kings won the first three games of the series, with goaltender Jonathan Quick earning a shutout in the third contest. Facing elimination, however, the Canucks staved off elimination with a victory to force a fifth game in the series. In Game 5, the teams remained tied at the end of regulation, but Jarrett Stoll scored just 4:27 into overtime to advance the Kings to the semifinals in the Western Conference.

The Kings faced the St. Louis Blues and earned their first sweep in franchise history, defeating the second seed team and advancing to the Western Conference Final. Quick continued to play well, allowing just six goals in four games during the series. In doing so, the Kings became the first eighth seed to defeat both the first and second seed teams in the playoffs.

In the Western Conference Final, the Kings met the Phoenix Coyotes who had entered the playoffs as the third seed in the conference. The Kings dominated the first three games, outscoring the Coyotes by a 10-3 margin but were shutout 2-0 in the fourth contest to force Game 5 in Arizona.

With the game tied 3-3 at the end of regulation, the teams began sudden death overtime. With just 2:18 remaining in the first extra session, Dustin Penner scored to send the Kings to the Stanley Cup Final for just the second time in franchise history. The victory also made Kings just the second team in NHL history to defeat the top three seeds in the playoffs to advance to the Stanley Cup Final.

Ironically, the only other team to accomplish the feat was the 2003-04 Calgary Flames, who were also coached by Sutter, but fell to the Tampa Bay Lightning in seven games in the Stanley Cup Final. It was Sutter’s only appearance in the final before he began coaching the Kings.

First Stanley Cup in Franchise History

Kings Win Cup
(Bridget Samuels)

The Los Angeles Kings traveled to New Jersey to play the Devils in the first two games of the 2012 Stanley Cup Finals. Both games were close and needed overtime. After Anze Kopitar scored at 8:17 in game one and Jeff Carter scored at 13:42 of game two, the Kings held a 2-0 series lead heading back to Los Angeles.

In Game 3, the Kings shut out the Devils 4-0 and set another mark, becoming the first team in league history to lead all four playoffs series’ by a 3-0 margin. On home ice in Game 4, the Kings and Devils remained scoreless through two periods. However, each team traded goals a minute apart in the third period before Devils forward Adam Henrique scored at 15:29 of the frame in what became the eventual game-winning goal. After Ilya Kovalchuk added an empty-netter, the Devils secured the victory and forced a fifth game in the series, back at the Prudential Center.

In Game 5, the Devils used the advantage of playing in front of their home crowd to take a 2-1 victory and send the series back to Los Angeles. Notably, with the loss, the Kings’ record 10-straight playoff road victories had ended.

In Game 6, the Kings scored three power-play goals in five minutes midway through the first period to jump out to an early lead in the contest. The Devils were unable to make the comeback, falling 6-1 and earning the Kings their first Stanley Cup in what would go down as a historic run to the title.

After turning around the Kings in just his first season as head coach, expectations were high for Sutter when began his second season with the club.

Stay tuned for Part II, where we look at how Sutter helped the Kings to their second Stanley Cup in 2014 and has helped build the team into one of the NHL’s most competitive franchises year-in and year-out during his time with the club.