If you don’t like the personality of Kings Coach Darryl Sutter, then simply wait five minutes for the cold front to swirl out the door.
Or, in some cases, not even a minute.
Sutter was at his contrarian and charming best Thursday, all within about an hour on the day after the Kings’ first stumble in the playoffs this season, a 3-1 loss to the Vancouver Canucks. In between there was some vintage, “sarcastic-ness,” a word invented by defenseman Drew Doughty the other day, in an effort to explain Sutter’s impact.
The Kings hold a 3-1 lead in their best-of-seven series against the Canucks. Game 5 is scheduled for Sunday in Vancouver, but a start time has not been announced by the league.
“It’s only the Stanley Cup playoffs, only Game 5,” Sutter said. “But we don’t know what time we’re playing Sunday. And we have to set travel and practice plans. I hope it’s not interfering with anything else.”
Not only is there the discomfort with three days off between Game 4 and Game 5 but also added unease about pre-game preparations because of the unknown start time.
“When you guys find out, tell me,” Sutter said. “That’s beyond frustrating. ... I understand why. It’s because of TV and the different networks and so forth. And I’m going to assume it has something to do with the two Canadian teams, and what Ottawa and the center of the universe does.”
That would be the first-round series between Ottawa and the New York Rangers.
“It affects what you do the day before,” Sutter said. "…It’s like getting a horse ready to run on Sunday. He’s got to do things right on Saturday.”
Trust Sutter to work animal husbandry into a hockey conversation.
He is four games into his first playoff series as a coach in six years. In fact, his last coaching run in the playoffs, with the Calgary Flames, ended with an upset loss to the Ducks in 2006.
And it is just about four months since he left the family farm and a sizable ranching operation in Viking, Canada, to replace Terry Murray as Kings coach.
His impact has been considerable — at least when the players could fully hear him. Sutter has moments in which he mumbles, and does so quite often in his media sessions. Even Charles Barkley satirized one of his postgame news conferences on “Saturday Night Live.” Former Kings defenseman Jack Johnson, since traded to Columbus, said that he used to just nod his head in agreement when Sutter spoke; that way he would keep out of trouble.
But Doughty has heard Sutter … loud and clear.
“You don’t want to be on his bad side because it’s not fun,” Doughty said at the start of the playoffs. “I’ve been on his bad side for a few games this season and I didn’t like it.
"…His sarcastic-ness and stuff like that. It’ll get to you. At the same time, when you’re playing well, he’s going to tell you you’re playing well.”
This has not been one of Sutter’s more vocal teams.
“They’re all awesome quiet guys,” he said.
Locally, the playoffs have created a heightened awareness of Sutter and the Kings, who are trying to win a series for the first time since 2001.
“I know how it works,” Sutter said. “It used to be win or tie and they’re with you. Now it’s just win. When you lose, you’ve got to watch where you walk.”
Especially in Southern California, where pedestrian crosswalks seem to be a suggestion, not a law for drivers.
Sutter laughed at that observation.
“That’s true,” he said. “That’s awesome. Bump and run.”
On Thursday, the Kings were off the ice and took part in gym workouts and a variety of other activities, including the perennial favorite, ping-pong. Kings forward Kyle Clifford skated for the second day and Sutter said the team continues to follow “protocol,” but that did not offer much of a timetable.
Clifford hasn’t played since he was slammed into the boards by the Canucks’ Byron Bitz in Game 1.
Meanwhile, Kings center Jarret Stoll was trying to figure why the team seems to play better on the road than at home.
“I don’t know what it is,” Stoll said. “I think it’s just simple and we’re maybe a little more desperate. It seems as though we play a lot more stingy on the road. Especially defensively in our coverage in what we give up. At home, it seems like we are more loose. It’s something we have to fix, for sure.”