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There were clearly some issues with the Los Angeles Kings this year. A team doesn’t just go from winning two of the last three Stanley Cups to missing the playoffs without something going wrong.
Was it coach Darryl Sutter? Strange to think that a guy who helped turn the team around upon his 2011 hiring could become a polarizing figure.
According to the New York Post, Kings coach Darryl Sutter was not allowed in the team’s locker room after a loss “within the last two weeks” so he could not berate the team.
But it gets better …
Per the Post:
As the tale was told, after Sutter finally tracked down an arena operative to unlock the door, he was greeted by three heavy waste receptacles lined up as barricade to what had become an empty room.
This story was kind of confirmed by Kings general manager Dean Lombardi at a media gathering Sunday. Though he did pin a time and place on the incident at Tampa Bay on Feb. 7. That was a Kings win … which then started an eight-game winning streak. That came right before LA had lost seven of eight.
Per the LA Times:
Tensions were particularly high on that long trip, which included a trip to the White House. Sutter was also bothered by the presence of an Epix television crew following the team on the Road to the Stadium Series and curtailed access. Lombardi said he was not troubled by what was perceived as a sign of disconnect between the coach and his players.
And those garbage cans? Oh they were just a signal to the coaching staff to stay out according to Lombardi. This sounds like the sock on the door situation in college. Or some gentle messaging by the Kings to try to get ahead of the situation -- if there is one.
Interestingly, it would have been one episode after this incident when Sutter and the Kings locker room magically disappeared from EPIX. Here is our review from the episode that featured the Tampa game. That episode finished with Marian Gaborik winking at the camera, so clearly angers weren’t boiling at an absurdly high rate.
Lombardi is a man of many words and many references. And LA Kings Insider always seems to get his entire transcript in the blog.
Here is Lombardi’s example of the Sutter situation:
I don’t know if I like the way it happened, but if you look at great teams, a perfect example is Derek Jeter. When Joe Torre was willing to blow or something, Jeter would walk in and say, ‘whoa, whoa, whoa, I got this one. Stay out, and don’t be losing it.’ You’ve seen this with top players all the time. The players essentially you want in charge of your room, and like I said, maybe the way to do it was, ‘we don’t need to hear from you now, we’ve got it,’ and go out and get it done.
Love it when he pulls out something totally random and draws symmetry to it.
Is this a problem? Probably not. Stuff happens with teams all the time during a season. Some sweep it under the rug better than others. This Kings situation obviously got out, and it indeed makes Sutter and his relationship with its players look bad.
Sometimes, a player can only take so much coaching in the middle of a season. And a veteran team like the Kings, if they were indeed tired of Sutter’s F-bombs, probably didn’t want to hear from him after that game.
Did this happen in the last couple of weeks as well? If the relationship was that bad, there’d probably be a sense that Sutter will be gone this offseason, which we haven’t gotten. But there’s a lot more that goes on to a hockey season than teams let on or an ‘all-access’ EPIX series can show us. And when a team doesn’t make the playoffs, emotions run rampant.
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