…or is that what just happened?
When the LA Kings were first rumored to be interested in hiring Darryl Sutter as the coach to replace Terry Murray, many scoffed at the idea. He was labeled a yeller, bombastic, hard-nosed, fiery, volatile, abrasive and several other less than flattering adjectives.
Then, at the team’s press conference to announce his hiring, Dean Lombardi warned anybody who would listen – don’t believe what you hear, Sutter is more than just a screamer.
The GM appeared to know exactly what he was talking about, as the new coach was as personable as can be for the first two months. Players would gush when talking about him and TV cameras often caught him giving words of encouragement to individuals on the bench during games.
“Kopitar and Brown (need) to get going. Neither one has done much for six weeks,” Sutter said, when kicking off his post-practice press conference today. “These guys talk too much about the team. They should talk more about themselves, what they bring to the table.”
And with that, the gloves were off.
Murray had rarely, if ever, criticized his players while leading the Kings. Sure, there was the occasional poke at somebody like Alexei Ponikarovsky. Yet, he never called out his star players.
Sutter? It appears he’s seen enough.
Following Saturday night’s 1-0 loss – the team’s second in a row – he spoke with the players and then went to an adjacent room to meet with media. As he walked in with a lozenge in his mouth, the real surprise may have been that he wasn’t on crutches after injuring his foot while firmly putting it up the…well, you get the idea.
“Kopi and Brownie have been stale, from my standpoint, for a little while together,” he continued this morning. “(Kopitar) has to bring more energy and more purpose when he has the puck. It’s not that he’s playing poorly. If you didn’t look at him as a high-end offensive player, he’s playing well enough in the three zones, But, when he’s got the puck in the offensive zone, he’s got to be a lot more determined, purposed player when he has it in the offensive zone. He does a really good job of getting there with it and helping everybody else get there, but he’s got to do a better job once he has it there, because he’s capable.”
Sutter was able to balance part of the sharp criticism with at least some praise for where Kopitar’s game had been prior – “Up until we went on that (road) trip, there were games where he was close to dominating in those areas. Then, we went on the trip and it started to slip in his game.”
When it came to the team’s captain, Sutter was as direct with his comments as he believes Brown is as a player.
“Brownie is a straight-line, up-and-down, go-to-the net, shoot-the-puck, run-over-people player,” Sutter explained. “Just break it down. If he’s doing those four or five things, he’s effective. If he’s not doing all those things, he’s not effective. That’s what ties into Brownie’s scoring, is those areas. It’s simple. He’s not unlike any other power player. When they stop doing those things, then those chances go down and their scoring goes down. That’s where he is right now. We moved him to left wing, probably 12 games ago, and he has scored one goal there, and that was the game against Calgary. That was the only time. So I’ll take as much responsibility in that as he should.”
That being said, it’s clear that Sutter wants both Kopitar and Brown to be responsible for some goals tomorrow night vs. Phoenix.
Kopitar has just three goals in the last month (14 games) and Brown has just one during the same time period – including none in the last 11 games. With such a lack of production, the Kings were under .500 during that stretch, posting a 5-6-3 record.
Sutter has spoken now. Will the subsequent actions of his players ring louder?