Though Darryl Sutter will reach a personal milestone tonight by coaching his 1,000th regular season National Hockey League game, he’s not particularly concerned with the significance or the pageantry of the event.
“Actually it’s about 2,000. Serious,” he said.
“And the most important one in all of that is always playoffs, playoff games. That’s way more [important] than any of them other ones…I mean, the reason you coach is for playoffs. That’s why you coach. That’s not a monumental thing for me.”
In addition to coaching playoff games, he also played down his personal milestone by referencing the games he served as general manager of the Calgary Flames.
“Quite honest, lockouts and games played, and managing, all that, it was way [more], thousands. That’s friggin’ nothing. That’s like the warranty going off.”
Through 999 career games, Sutter has an overall regular season coaching record of 486-362-101-50 (W-L-T-OTL). In 139 games with Los Angeles, Sutter’s record is 77-42-20 (W-L-OTL). His .626 winning percentage with the Kings is the highest of any coach in club history.
Knowing Sutter was about to appear behind a bench for the 1,000th time in the regular season brought a smile to Willie Mitchell’s face.
“We don’t need old coaches being slow coaches for us out there. Better have some fresh legs tonight,” he joked.
Darryl Sutter, on whether he can remember the first NHL game he coached:
I couldn’t even remember it…The only bearing it has on me is there isn’t guaranteed one player, former player, that became a coach that thought he was going to be a coach. Somebody had to trust him or give him the opportunity, right? So Bob Pulford and Bill Wirtz gave me an opportunity. [Reporter: Do you talk to Pully very often?] Good. Seen him twice in the last month. In fact, he waited to go to Florida – he was supposed to go before our game because usually they winter in Florida, but he stayed for both of them, so that was good.
Sutter, whether he interviewed for his first head coaching job in Chicago:
No, I didn’t interview for the job. There was a succession. I was the assistant coach, and then I was the head coach in the farm team, and then in two years I was coming back to be a head coach. That’s what you did. I have yet to interview for a coaching job. I don’t intend to. When I took this one, that’s if there’s anything about experience – or not experience, but when you talk about that thousand-game thing – there’s a point where there’s a lot of young coaches now where they just jump at any opportunity, and usually that opportunity lasts one-to-two-to-three years, and they never get that opportunity again. So the guys that coach a long period of time, they pick and choose where they coach, and when you have playoff success, you pick and choose. So when I came here, I didn’t come here because I ‘wanted to be a head coach.’ You guys know how much I like that stuff. I came back here because I knew there was an opportunity to coach in playoffs, and anybody in today’s world – I always say, ‘in a cap world’ – if you get in, you can win it. So that’s all it is.
Willie Mitchell, on whether anything has changed with Sutter since he came to the Kings:
No, I think everyone knows that Darryl’s a really intense dude and he’s all about preparation. He’s all about intensity. He’s all about workday, because game day is game day and it’s all about preparation. It’s about your focus. It’s about all the things you need to do as an individual to be the best you can be, which ends ups being the best teammate you can be. So, that’s him. He just brings an intensity, definitely, to the locker room. You see him pacing around two-and-a-half hours before the game. I’m kind of like ‘save some of that energy,’ you know? I don’t need you pacing two-and-a-half. I turn the switch on a different way, I guess you could say. But I definitely have my own preparation. I think everyone has their own, and he’s okay with that too. It’s just making sure that when it’s game day that’s where your focus should be. No, I don’t think that’s wavered at all. That’s kind of him and I don’t think you’ll ever see that waver.
Mitchell, on whether he knew Sutter before he came to Los Angeles:
Just playing against his teams in Calgary, he was a GM there and coach. A lot of time with his captain there, Iginla, I played a lot against him. So, I’m quite familiar with him and how he coaches and I’m sure he’s pretty familiar with me too.
Mitchell, on whether Sutter can be hard to understand:
Eh, sometimes. Sometimes you don’t want to understand him on the bench, right? Because it’s usually directed at you. I think sometimes it’s done on purpose because he really wants you to hear it and listen. So when someone speaks quietly and softly like that you really have to lean in and make sure you hear it. So sometimes I think it’s also done on purpose. I think that’s the main thing, as players you understand him better. Understand where his direction is and what he’s trying to accomplish and 95-percent of the time it’s motivational.
Mitchell, on whether Sutter is a “coffee and Red Bull guy”:
He’s definitely a coffee guy. You guys have seen him around. Good environmental guy like myself. I respect it, because he walks around with coffee cup instead of a Styrofoam cup. I’m not sure he does it for that. I think he does it taste. As we all know, it tastes way better out of a regular cup.