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Amid troubles, Kings coach reaches a superb milestone

Amid troubles, Kings coach reaches a superb milestone
Coach Darryl Sutter and the Kings are seeking their first win in regulation this season. (Jae C. Hong / Associated Press)

Even at the best of times, Kings Coach Darryl Sutter generally doesn't speak much about personal milestones or achievements.

Ever since he took over behind the Kings' bench from Terry Murray in December, 2011, Sutter's operating philosophy has focused on team goals and successes; the only two Stanley Cups in the franchise's history have been won on his watch.

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These are not the best of times for the Kings. Depleted by injuries, their offense consistently misfiring, they are just 5-6 after 11 games, and still without a win in regulation.

Despite the gloom, Sutter managed a significant career milestone on Thursday, when he became just the 14th coach in NHL history to record 600 wins. What's more, the victory came against the reigning Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins.

In a coaching career that began with the 1992-93 Chicago Blackhawks and then continued with the San Jose Sharks and the Calgary Flames – Saturday's visitors to the Staples Center – these may be among Sutter's most challenging times.

Sutter is a demanding coach when times are good; and equally understanding and supportive when times are tough as the Kings are patching a team together with younger players.

"In every aspect of life you have to adapt," said Kings' defenseman Tom Gilbert, a newcomer to the coaching gospel of Sutter. "The game has changed big-time. There's the old-school mentality of coaching and now there's the new style of coaching, which is a lot different. And I've seen it. I've been in the league 11 years. It's a different dynamic and I think coaching is different that way, too."

Until they scored three goals against a tired Penguins' team, the Kings had gone three games without scoring a goal. Sutter's patience will undoubtedly be tested until they get all hands back on deck.

"For sure with coaching, it's all about winning," Sutter said. "That's the clear criteria, so you try and hit those targets. You can make teams better, that's for sure."

The Sutters were once considered the NHL's first family, with six of the seven brothers having played in the NHL. But on some level, they can also be considered the first family of coaches. Sutter's brothers – Brian, Brent and Duane – have all also coached in the NHL and collectively have accounted for 1,268 regular-season wins.

That is 23 more than Scotty Bowman, the all-time leader among NHL coaches.

Among active coaches, only Joel Quenneville (Chicago), Ken Hitchcock (St. Louis), Lindy Ruff (Dallas) and Barry Trotz (Washington) are ahead of Sutter on the all-time wins list. And while hockey has become a young man's game on the ice and in the executive suite, there does appear to be a lot of appreciation for experience behind the bench.

"In terms of other sports — I was thinking baseball in particular — the more successful (veteran) guys are still heavily involved," said Sutter, a former Chicago resident who was deeply interested in the Cubs' run in the World Series.

"I know from being a head coach, an assistant coach, a general manager, experience is not necessarily the most important criteria. Wins and playoff success are the two major elements involved."

Sutter won 107 regular-season games in Calgary and led the Flames to the 2004 Stanley Cup final. He's also won 110 games with Chicago, 192 with San Jose and now 191 with Los Angeles.

"He's done a good job with our team, getting us going, winning twice here," said veteran forward Dwight King. "Coaching is no different than any other field. You learn from watching and I'm sure he's got a lot of friends in the business, not just coaches but guys who are GMs and scouts that have insight to help adjust the direction of how they see the game changing."

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The official record book counts playoff wins separately, a category Sutter believes is undervalued. Last weekend, when the Kings visited Chicago, the Blackhawks celebrated a key milestone for forward Marian Hossa, who'd scored his 500th career goal the previous week. But when Sutter reflects on Hossa's legacy, it will be because of his production in the postseason.

"I've always said that – Hossa's a great playoff player," he said. "Five-hundred goals, plus. Look at his playoffs [201 career games, 149 points, five trips to the Stanley Cup finals]. I was fortunate enough to coach 500- and 600-goal guys, too. It's the same with coaches. That's why you stress experience and longevity – and longevity is based on success."

Twitter: @reallisa

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