October 24, 2013 10:59 am

On a physical identity and avoiding supplemental discipline

Though the Los Angeles Kings have built a reputation as a large, physical team that is difficult to play against – a depiction based more on outside observation, according to Darryl Sutter and Willie Mitchell – they are among the NHL teams that have remained out of the glance of the Department of Player Safety. Since the creation of the DPS and Brendan Shanahan’s ascendance to becoming the league’s chief disciplinarian in June, 2011, the Kings have generally been assessed only one suspension.

The Kings were the second-to-last NHL team to draw a suspension since the beginning of the 2011-12 pre-season; the Winnipeg Jets remain the only team in the league to have never received a “Shanaban.” Other teams that have received only one suspension include the New Jersey Devils, Carolina Hurricanes and Nashville Predators.

So is there any pride in the tendency to play a physical game while generally avoiding supplemental discipline?

Is the assessment that the Kings play a rugged, grinding, difficult-to-play-against style an accurate one?

Darryl Sutter:
We’re not a team that takes penalties. That’s a real misconception – I mean, quite honest, that’s something that didn’t come from in here, that we’re this big, physical team. We don’t take penalties. When you do, you have trouble. So that’s the only thing that’s related to any of those things. [Reporter: But is there a sense of pride that the team does not take penalties, given the way the team plays?] You have to learn how to do that. Quite honest, I’m not saying that I implemented any of that, but it wasn’t a very disciplined team at one point. If you look at the teams that are historically not very disciplined in the last few years, they have a hard time making the playoffs in today’s game.

Willie Mitchell:
Sure. I think that’s part of our identity that we’re trying to kind of carve again. You get labeled an identity. You don’t try and sit there and say ‘this is the type of team we are,’ right? You get labeled it. So I think we’ve gotten labeled as a team that we’re big, strong, fast, physical and hard to play against. That’s what we’re trying to do again here this year. I think we’ve got guys who play hard but are fair. Brownie’s one of the guys who leads in hits in the NHL every year. I’ve been on the other side playing against him. I don’t like playing against him. He’s a guy you chase around a little bit…But it’s just because he hits so hard. But he’s fair. And he’s honest. I think that’s something we take pride in as a team, too, is that we’re going to compete hard. We’re not going to back down. But we’re going to compete fair and honest. Hey, it could happen to one of us this year where we get a suspension. The reality is – and that’s the argument on the other side of the equation – is it’s a fast, physical game, and decisions are made really quick. Like, you’re going to hit a guy, and it’s never in my intentions to hurt some guy on the ice, but the next thing you know, his head could come down. The next think you know, it’s a head shot. It’s tough. I think there’s going to be those ones even though guys are trying to be very aware of each other on the ice, I think you’re still going to see hits where there is some shoulder to head and contact, even though that’s not the intention. Its never going to be perfect, but I think the league’s done a good job of cleaning it up and making guys more aware of it, and guys think twice and definitely change the way you hit a little bit. Not so much with the elbows, not so reckless. Still hitting hard, but hitting through the body.

Mitchell, on Brown’s one suspension in 651 hockey games:
That’s what I mean. He’s going to walk that line, just because of how he plays. There are a few guys in here that are going to walk that. But like I said, I think everyone’s aware. I think everyone understands it. Sid said it best – if you have time to think how you’re going to hit a guy, you have time to think which way you’re going to come in to make sure you hit a guy the right way. Like I said, sometimes you can go in to hit a guy, and the next thing you know, it’s a pile and a guy gets spun and turned, and then you hit him a way you don’t want to hit, too. I think those will happen in the game, and as long as those are the minimal ones – and the other ones are out of the game – I think the players will be in a safer place, and everyone’s happy with that, with it still being a physical game.

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