Los Angeles Kings general manager Dean Lombardi said there is an “offer on the table” to coach Darryl Sutter to return to the team next year.
According to Lombardi, who spoke publicly with reporters for the first time since LA was ousted from the postseason two weeks ago, money isn’t an issue with the deal, but it’s more whether the Sutter wants to come back for a sixth season with the organization and try to adapt after two disappointing years.
In 2014-15 the Kings missed the playoffs after winning a Stanley Cup the year before. This past year LA lost their Pacific Division lead in the season’s final weekend. The Kings were then eliminated in five games in the first-round of the playoffs by the San Jose Sharks.
Sutter has won two Stanley Cups and held a .608 points percentage in his time with LA. Sutter has a 186-112-45 record during that stretch.
“I think there’s an offer that’s certainly respectable, but I don’t think this is about money. I think it’s ‘are we ready to do this’ because it’s going to be a lot of work. And just like building it in the past, you stick with some tough times. We’re not going back to there but to get this back on track there’s going to be some minor punches in the gut as we fight our way through,” Lombardi said.
Lombardi did note that he’s “not concerned” the 57-year-old Sutter won’t return, but the decision for Sutter may not be as easy as past choices. Lombardi said the Kings need to re-examine their organization to return to a championship level. He wasn’t specific, but it’s clear he’s looking to make some changes moving forward.
Sutter’s methodical system has preached defense-first and has yielded a high level of success in the past. In 2015-16 season, LA finished third in the NHL in goals against per-game. But the Sharks, a group built around offense, speed and their power play, broke down the Kings’ defense in their series.
“It’s the same question as when I first brought him here. ‘Here’s what we’ve got, here’s what the owners like, here’s what the game plan is, here’s our strength, here’s our weakness.’ Boom, he takes it. His contract was up last time. Same questions. I think it’s a little tougher, and the difference for both of us at this time is it’s safe to say we’re in uncharted waters,” Lombardi said. “I think it’s safe to say when I brought him here that we had great experience building. 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. The things that have happened were arguably predictable because of past history in other sports or whatever, and now you have to fix it. That’s a different challenge, probably, than any of us have faced because we had never won before.”
Sutter has not spoken publicly to reporters since the Sharks beat the Kings in Game 5 of the playoffs. If he wants to return to coaching, it’s believed the Kings are the best fit for him, based on his long relationship with Lombardi, going back to their time in San Jose, and how the organization and community have embraced him and his family.
Lombardi did not say if there is a time frame on when he would want Sutter to accept the offer.
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