One popular conversation topic between reporters and Kings players, coaches and hockey executives surrounds the team’s competitive readiness after returning from what was perceived to be a “short summer.”
Yes, the Kings had a shorter summer than all but 28 other teams this year, but it’s not as if they’re navigating uncharted territory. The last three Kings seasons ended on June 11, June 8 and June 13.
“You know what? It’s a question that we shouldn’t even have to talk about again this year because we’ve done it three years in a row,” Darryl Sutter said. “And, quite honest, even though we didn’t win the championship the year of the lockout, we got beat in the conference final, and we could’ve got beat in the conference final last year, but we played through the third week of June every year. In terms of the shorter summer, hey, we set our summer up. We set it up two days after the season. We set up our summer up. We had a schedule. We had two weeks of everybody that was healthy of not doing anything, and then we had 70 days of training, and our guys have showed that. They did an awesome job.”
Sutter has repeatedly said that the team reported to camp in very good shape – and doesn’t need “some scientific physiological test” for a confirmation.
Two years ago, the club’s off-season fitness program was disrupted by the NHL lockout, creating uneven fitness levels when the team returned to an abbreviated training camp in January.
“We did not know what was going to happen,” he said. “It’s not like we were two sides of the fence. We could honestly talk about it – if there was an agreement, or there wasn’t – so we were ready for that also. Just to go back on it, talking to the guys when they came back, when they came back for the 48-game [season], a lot of them felt they were more ready for the games in October than they were in [January] because it became sort of a ‘Geez, this ain’t gonna happen’ deal.”
“The ‘short summer’ phrase only applies to us for the guys that, quite honest, had surgery and had shortened camps because that is what affects it.”
The shortened summer did affect one aspect of planning – it forced the coaches to start mapping out the upcoming season’s practice and travel calendars.
“I think the season, once we get the regular schedule out, which quite honest when you play as long as we have, we’re doing a lot of overlapping during the playoffs, meaning as coaches, we’re working on the next season already because all the other teams are. Only the teams that are left are not working on their summer programs, so a lot of those flights that we were on, or a lot of those days between games, we were working on next year’s schedule because we have it pretty much where we’re going to play and what our schedule is by the third round. It’s already declared, quietly. We know what’s going on, so we can set the season up, and then once we’re done playing, then we take it to two or three of the older players, get their input, and then go from there. And now, with the mandatory four days off…we set our schedule up with the guys a month at a time, but at the same time…our guys are really flexible in that because of our travel, and that’s part of the trust thing.”