Here’s the transcript of the press conference today with Dean Lombardi and Darryl Sutter, starting with Lombardi’s opening comments…
LOMBARDI: “I think it’s safe to say, as far as Darryl, that we’re very similar but yet different. We’re both the same age and we grew up in different environments, one the son of a factory rat, the other the son of a farmer. The values are the same. If you work hard, you will be rewarded. You have an identity. You stand for something, and as long as you work hard and you’re a good teammate, we’re going to have all the time in the world for you. As far as what Darryl has accomplished, and what type of man he is, you just have to look at his background. Coming out of junior hockey with the Chicago Blackhawks, an 11th-round draft pick. They didn’t want to sign him out of junior, so he went to Japan to play. He had a scholarship to Princeton University, turned it down to pursue his dream as a player. After the Blackhawks signed him, where did he end up? A 40-goal scorer in this league, a captain of one of the most storied franchises in the National Hockey League. As a coach, he has seen each end of the spectrum.
“When he took over the Blackhawks, it was a good team and he immediately led that team to the second-highest point total in its history. When we were in San Jose together, we took over a bad team. We improved it six years in a row while getting younger every year. Then, his last tour, he took over what essentially, probably wasn’t a very good team. He basically willed them to the Stanley Cup Finals. So, in the end, with this type of background, what I’m really excited about is, I think this guy is in his prime, and I really think the best is yet to come.’’
Sutter then took pictures with a Kings jersey, presented by Lombardi, and made an opening statement…
SUTTER: “Thank you, Hall of Famer, for introducing me. Thank you, Dean, for his comments. I want to thank Mr. Anschutz, obviously, for the opportunity to coach a good hockey team. I’m excited about it, looking forward to it. I think we have, it goes without being said, five or six of the best young players in the game, and a good, solid core of veterans, a lot of guys who have won championships, and that’s important. A lot of guys I can identify with, I think. I know it’s been a tough couple weeks for them, but at the same time I know we’ve got lots of ground to cover and I know they’re capable of doing that.’’
Question: Obviously offense has been a problem here. What do you think needs to be done, to start producing goals?
SUTTER: “I think, number one in all that is, you have to be careful not to over (emphasize) that. I think there are some players who have had trouble scoring this year, that aren’t guys that are going to have trouble scoring, over their careers. I think it’s just a matter of time. There are small things involved in the game, and guys here will understand that, Jimmy (Fox) and Daryl (Evans), guys who have played the game. There are little areas of the game that we can be a lot better at, and we’ll score more goals. In the big part of it, this league is a 3-2 league. It’s not a 5-2 or a 5-4. It’s a 3-2 league. There’s still a tremendous amount of impact by being good defenders, and not spending as much time in your own zone, spending time in the offensive zone, controlling the neutral zone. There are lots of parts to it. It’s not just because we haven’t scored enough goals.’’
Question: You’ve been away from coaching for a little bit. What persuaded you to come back?
SUTTER: “It’s a couple things. Number one, I always told my family that if I had the right opportunity, I was going to go back and coach. I wanted to stay in the game in that capacity. For me, I wanted to go with people that you’re familiar with and think the same as you do. Also, you think it’s a good hockey club. I’m not a person that sat and waited for another job, or one of those guys that hoped there would be change somewhere. I didn’t expect the Los Angeles Kings to be looking for a head coach, that’s for sure, just because of the type of team they have. I was ready for it, but I just think we’re a good hockey club. That’s the way I look at it.’’
Question: Can you talk about your style of coaching, and how you want to incorporate that?
SUTTER: “I think really honest, firm, try to get the most out of them. You hear about overachievers and underachievers. Really, overachieving is getting the most out of yourself, and I think that’s what I can help a lot of guys with. There are a lot of guys who have a lot of growth going forward, and for the rest of their careers. And I think there’s a veteran group that we have to push to help our young players get better.’’
Question: How much have you had a chance to watch this team of late? Also, an area of concern has been the power play? What’s your first step in addressing that?
SUTTER: “First off, I watched the last five games on TV live. Dean had sent me seven games, going back to the start of the season. So, if you take the last week, I’ve coached those games. That’s the way you do it. So I’m pretty familiar with the group. As far as the power play goes, I think there are areas, clearly, that they can improve on. There’s talent with the guys in there, so it’s a matter of getting it to work together and doing the things that are necessary to score goals. Quite honestly, if you look at the game against Toronto, that’s a good example of what they need to do.’’
Question: What was it like being back on the ice today? Second, what was the overall message you sent to players? SUTTER: “Well, we met with the team, prior to going on the ice, for quite a while, to review their season, where they’ve been, what’s going on, where we have to go, what we need to do, the `seize the moment’ type of thing and how we have to approach it, being really straightforward and understanding what they’re going to put into it. It was awesome. On the ice, someone asked me after and I said I felt 25 (years old) out there.’’
Question: Will you be bringing in any assistants, or will you stick with who is on staff? SUTTER: “First off, with the existing staff, I think Johnny (Stevens) has done an awesome job, helping the team through this. I was really proud of him. With Billy Ranford, I know him from the past, and he’s from up in our area and does a lot of work. Right now, we just want to focus on — especially being close to the holidays — I just want to focus on this group. That’s the best way to put it, I think. I’m satisfied. Those guys are familiar with the team, and that really helps.’’
Question: What you do you say to people who think that a disciplinarian style doesn’t work with today’s players? SUTTER: “I don’t think it comes into play at all. I think it usually gets blown out of proportion. I think, as long as we’re on the same page with it, it’s really not that big of a deal. I know some of the older guys, and some of the kids, through the national programs and so forth, so that’s a side issue. And they always are side issues. Quite honestly, players need to be pushed and pulled. Sometimes you get pushed, sometimes you get pulled. It’s simple. They want it. They want success.’’
Question: You had real good defensemen in Calgary and you have Drew Doughty on this team. How can you help him get back to the level he was at, and to the next level?
SUTTER: “I think the last few games, he has competed at a really high level. I think if it’s only measured in terms of offense with those young guys, in terms of numbers, then you really get in trouble with the other parts of the game. You have to concentrate on being the full package and being good players, which he does, and then excelling at it and being a big part of special teams, which he is. It takes a little bit of time. He’s just a kid. We can help him with that.’’
Question: What was it like, being away from the game?
SUTTER: “In Canada, you watch three or four games a night. The tough thing, being a coach in the past, is that every game you watch, you do, instinctively, coach. It’s the hardest thing to do. That was always one of the hardest things to separate out. In terms of experience and learning, I think we’ll all be better tomorrow if we work at it. I don’t feel like I’ve been away. I feel like I coached yesterday.’’
Question: When you talk about it being a 3-2 league, is that the same no matter how much talent you have?
SUTTER: “Those are just the stats that tell you the truth. If you take the year, and all the goals for and against, that’s basically what the league is. It’s simple. You might win 4-1 one night, or lose 2-1 or 2-0, but the fact of the matter is, it is a 3-2 league. So, we have some ground to cover to get to that.’’
Question: What’s it like, being a cowhand versus a coach?
SUTTER: “I’ve kind of done both, hand in hand, for a long time. I guess I don’t get to see the cows for a while.’’
Question: Is there any update on Mike Richards’ status?
SUTTER: “He was cleared for full participation, and he did fully participate today. We’ll just take it from there.’’