Hockey Correspondent and Occasional Shakespeare Character, White Cover Magazine
Yes, the Los Angeles Kings won. Yes, the Stanley Cup champions appear to be back on a track, but who’s to say it’s the track?
Even after Monday’s rather gradual defeat of a limp-di*k Vancouver Canucks side, the Kings still appear to be a distant relative of the confident, swaggervill’d squad that took home the greatest trophy in sports in 2012.
In his second year behind the bench, Darryl Sutter faces his worst enemy. He’s no good at sequels. He’s not one for planning and strategy.
He’s a reactionary super villain. A knee-jerk maestro. He capitalizes on uncertainty and he turns down-on-their-luck hockey teams into champions.
But, these are peaceful times. The Los Angeles Kings already have their Cup. Everyone’s looking to them for an encore, but encores aren’t Darryl Sutter’s thing.
Last year, Sutter arrived just in time to turn the Kings into a more-than-worthy hockey club. They ran the table en route to the playoffs, squeaked in via eighth spot, and then proceeded to have the most fortunate and feeble lineup of opponents in playoff history.
Sure, the Kings may have earned their Cup, but the Canucks, Blues, Coyotes, and Devils of 2011 were nothing like any of the 16 clubs in the postseason the year before. They didn’t have the sand or gumption of any of the last 20 Stanley Cup winners.
Sutter took advantage of that. He owned a situation that needed him. He responded to a call of duty, and nobody coaches an underdog like Darryl Sutter.
Only two teams have ever gone to the Stanley Cup Final after beating the top three seeds in their conference. Both were Sutter-coached teams. The Calgary Flames in 2004 (who then lost to Tampa Bay in the Finals) and the Kings just eight months ago (who, of course, won).
This year, though, nobody’s counting out the Kings. Everyone expects them to be there at the end.
Only Darryl Sutter won’t let that happen. Win or lose, he does things his way.
I’ll bet he’ll be watching somebody else hoist his Cup in June.