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EL SEGUNDO, Calif. – Darryl Sutter wanted to do his breakout day media availability from the team’s locker room, not in front of a McDonald’s and Kings draped banner in a team alumni dressing room at the Toyota Sports Center.
Was this some sort of media trolling by Sutter after the New York Post reported Sunday – and GM Dean Lombardi sort of confirmed – that Sutter was locked out of the team’s locker room at one point this year? Lombardi said it was after a Feb. 7 game in Tampa. The Post said it happened the last couple of weeks.
After a few questions about the end of the season he was asked the pointed query about the incident. And Sutter immediately went on the offensive against the Post.
“Well, quite honest…if you’re asking that question, then you should go to the New York Post, because you don’t know much about sports and you don’t know much about locker rooms,” Sutter said.
This harkens to former Rangers coach John Tortorella sparring with Post beat reporter Larry Brooks. It was Brooks who wrote the piece.
Except Sutter happens to be 3,000 miles from New York and the Kings didn’t see this as a major deal.
And at least externally they said this was the culture that has been created by Sutter. Where players can hold themselves accountable and hash points out with each other. Los Angeles, which has won two of the last three Stanley Cups, became the first defending champ to not qualify for the postseason since 2007.
“We didn’t really have that prior to Darryl quite honestly,” captain Dustin Brown said. “He’s demanding, but in return we become more demanding of each other. There’s disagreements that happen. It’s the nature of being competitive, but it has done it good so far.”
What makes this seem different? It’s the fact that in the report, and this part was confirmed by Lombardi, that trash receptacles barricaded the door of the team’s dressing room. Also, the fact that Lombardi confirmed it, instead of opting to not comment added juice to the story.
Sutter scoffed at it and noted, as a hockey lifer, he’s seen it happen before.
“I did it as a captain, I did it as a coach, I did it as a general manager, and I totally get it. I totally understand that,” he said. “And when you have a group that’s used to being so successful, that’s why they’re so successful.”
Later, Sutter again went for the body punch on the Post, charging that the paper and the reporter who wrote the story didn’t understand what goes on with the Kings or their locker room culture.
And when a reporter mentioned that this ‘hashing things out behind closed doors like a family’ type thing was also was part and parcel of growing up with brothers, Sutter said, “Part-and-parcel of somebody from New York who doesn’t know what they’re talking about, and giving it to somebody else who doesn’t know what they’re talking about, and then it takes somebody who knows what they’re talking about, either a player or a coach toxplain to those people so they understand.”
Ugh, where was Brooks when we needed him to create more YouTube magic with a coach.
Again, stuff like this does happen in the hockey world, more often than people who don’t enter a locker room under closed door premises realize. Once that door is closed, there is a shroud of secrecy. Stuff is said – that can he hurtful, or deemed offensive. What we see in the small time when we enter that sacred space isn’t even a snippet of what goes on. It’s a tiny sliver.
That’s not to say there’s something wrong with the story, which was mostly confirmed. Just that some teams are better at hiding it than others. And when it happens, it's indeed buzzy and noteworthy.
But to answer some of the more pressing questions. Has Sutter lost the room? Sure doesn’t seem like it. If so, Brown wouldn’t have gone party line when he told us ‘adios’ for the summer. Will Sutter be back? He’s won two Stanley Cups the last three years. Of course he’ll be back.
Sutter is a polarizing figure in some ways. He gives short answers when the recorders are on. He has a constant look of annoyance on his face behind the bench.
He’s also an easy target. If you want to go there, he waited until the end of cattle birthing season to join the Kings after Terry Murray was fired. He’s a different cat.
But LA is a glamor franchise. It missed the playoffs. Accountability seems to not be a major issue at the moment simply because this team knows it just misfired for one year. It’s the West Coast, where patience runs higher than a more eastern market where this could be considered a travesty.
There are issues with the Kings, like any team, but a situation in February won’t change the trajectory of this organization for now. A slow start next year? Or another missed playoff year? Then they have problems.
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