Personnel changes, systems evolve and league heavyweights rise and fall, but if there’s an aspect of regular season play that has mostly remained constant under Darryl Sutter, it’s that his teams have been very good at home in the regular season. How good? Since he was introduced as the head coach on December 21, 2011, the Kings have operated at a .693 points percentage at Staples Center.
Granted, such a record is a reflection of the team’s overall success over that span, but that first year was a challenge. Los Angeles’ home record in 2011-12 was 22-14-5, the second-lowest home point accumulation out of the 16 teams that qualified for the playoffs that year. But with Sutter at the helm, Los Angeles earned points in 18 of 23 regular season games played at Staples Center and ultimately won six of nine playoff games on Figueroa Avenua. The next season, the Kings’ 19-4-1 record represented the best points percentage out of any full season during Sutter’s tenure.
Given that there was a column from the San Jose Mercury News during the 2011 playoff series between the teams that pinpointed Staples Center as “a Kenny G experience,” this is an interesting turnabout. (By the way, feel free to read the comments here, and sniff that old article link like a fine wine.)
When did that turnaround from Kenny G to GWG after GWG occur?
“It’s hard to say,” Drew Doughty said. “We started off my first couple years, our team was kind of growing and we were young and getting better and better every year and then I think by the time it was our third year we started to have that identity of the hard team to play against. A physical team that no one kind of wanted to come in here and play, so ever since then I feel like we’ve done a decent job at it, but we still haven’t done as good a job as we’d really like to.”
Considering the team has won a pair of Stanley Cups on home ice, I don’t know if we should hold it against them.
Earlier today, I asked Darryl Sutter about the team’s 9-2-0 start on home ice, and whether there are any staples stapling together performances at, well, Staples Center. It’s not as simple as just “home game” versus “road game.”
“You have to deal with so many [variables]. It’s not like the ‘home-road’ thing,” he said. “You have to deal with so many different things at home here. Look at this week. It does affect your team. We play a noon game on Saturday or Sunday or whenever the hell it is, and we play at 7:45 tonight. Like, there are so many different things, and then this year with the 50th and a lot of the pre-game stuff. Hey, your players have to deal with different ways of preparation. We trust them and their focus, and we’ve seen it, we’ve talked lots about it. Our schedule has backed off now in these games the last couple weeks, how guys deal. Guys have got to learn how to handle that, too. That affects your home performance. For sure it does when you’ve got a lot of young guys. I don’t think it’s points to one thing. If you do it, Jon, break it down by year. I’m thinking when I came here that first year, we weren’t a great home-record team. We basically played the other team, we played the whole game in our own zone. We didn’t make those adjustments. That’s how you create your identity is at home. We’ve had to change that a lot. It’s not easy. Most of the good teams have good home records, though. When you talk about how tough the schedule is, well, if there is any advantage, it is home cooking [inaudible] at home. So that’s how we’ve got to look at it. You’ve got to try and take full advantage of that.”
Tonight’s game should be interesting. Entering the 2015-16 season, home teams were 26-6-1 in the previous 33 regular season games in the series, and Los Angeles was coming off an 8-1-1 stretch at Staples Center against San Jose. But the Sharks won both regular season games in the building last season before going 3-0 during the teams’ five-game playoff series.
Los Angeles Kings home records under Darryl Sutter:
TOTAL: 116-46-19 (.693)