Kings break for off-season, downplay situation with Darryl Sutter

Kings Coach Darryl Sutter stands behind the bench during a loss to the Calgary Flames on Thursday.

Kings Coach Darryl Sutter stands behind the bench during a loss to the Calgary Flames on Thursday.

(Larry MacDougal / Associated Press)

Suddenly, Kings Coach Darryl Sutter started asking the questions in his media session, quizzing about family and communication and whether the door was closed when it came time to speak privately.

You could say this was no run-of-the-mill, breakup day at the Kings’ practice facility in El Segundo on Monday. It was one of several postscripts before the Kings scattered to various points after the end of the regular season and their failure to make the playoffs.

Sutter addressed a recent report about a disconnect between himself and the players, resulting in the team keeping him out of the dressing room with a barricade of trash receptacles. Kings General Manager Dean Lombardi said it happened long ago, on Feb. 7 in Tampa, not two weeks ago as the New York Post had reported.

Kings captain Dustin Brown said the matter was “blown out of proportion.”


“I think he’s demanding and pretty honest for the most part,” Brown said. “Players are going to disagree from time to time. I guess if you’re always agreeing and saying, ‘OK,’ then you’re probably not winning.

“The thing with Darryl is he pushes us, but he allows us to push back … ultimately that’s what creates a winning environment. We didn’t have that prior to Darryl, quite honest.”

If Sutter is old school, then an influential coach from his playing days with the Chicago Blackhawks, Bob Pulford, could be considered old-old school.

In their day, those things happened — disagreements between coaches and players and teammate with teammate — but it usually stayed behind closed doors.

“He [Pulford] might have locked you in,” Sutter said.

“It’s quite silly that people bring it up. If we had made the playoffs, then they’d have been talking about how we’re going to lose in the first round. The same people who talk about that stuff are the same people who want teams or players not to do well.”

Said Brown, talking about the players “owning” the room: “It happens all the time and it’s not always player/coach. It’s players on players. It comes back to demanding more of each other. Sometimes, it’s something that needs to be said. There’s moments on the bench or in the room after games where players have it out.

“At the end of the day, it’s probably healthy…. We can get on each other and go have a beer.”

The dynamic in the Kings’ room was bound to receive more scrutiny because of their championship pedigree — two Stanley Cups in three seasons — and subsequent struggles this past season. They went 15-18-8 on the road, their worst road showing in a full season since the 2008-09 campaign. Even more telling, the Kings were 3-15, combined, in overtime/shootouts.

“There’s times where you have to take a step back to take a couple of steps forward,” center Anze Kopitar said. “Hopefully that’s the case with us. We can sit back and just realize what we lost and come back stronger next year.”

There will be more hockey ahead for the likes of Kopitar and possibly some of his Kings teammates. The World Championships are next month in Prague and Kopitar’s father is Slovenia’s coach.

“It’s kind of hard to say no to your dad,” Kopitar said. “I certainly don’t have to rush. He knows and we’ve chatted. I can take some time off, a week, and recharge.”

Kings forward Marian Gaborik has represented Slovakia in the past in international competition. Kings defenseman Drew Doughty said he would ponder playing for Team Canada, but it sounded like a longshot chance considering his heavy workload this season.

Forward Tyler Toffoli and defenseman Jake Muzzin could be asked to play for Team Canada, and there might be interest in forward Trevor Lewis and defenseman Alec Martinez from Team USA. Brown, for his part, won’t play in Prague for Team USA.

“You don’t want to be done in April, but it’s the first time in four years I’ve had the opportunity to use the summer to make strides as opposed to getting back to square one,” Brown said.

There are bound to be more changes when the group reconvenes for training camp in September. Already, veteran defenseman Robyn Regehr said he has probably played his last professional game. Forwards Justin Williams and Jarret Stoll are on expiring contracts and the management is pondering the future of center Mike Richards. One executive said on Monday that a decision has not been made about whether to buy out the contract of Richards.

Said Sutter, speaking generally: “Part of a big family that won two championships. Unfortunately, sometimes a family has to go somewhere else to continue their careers.

“Really if there was a way for all our players to be back, I’d want them all to be back.”

Twitter: @reallisa