With the opening of NHL training camps postponed and no end in sight to the labor dispute between the league and the players’ union, Kings Coach Darryl Sutter has been staying busy at his family’s farm in Viking, Canada, where he’s helping out with chores. Right now, his priority is harvesting the wheat crop.
“It was really good and then we had some hail here in August that knocked it out a bit,” Sutter said by phone Saturday. “But it’s pretty good.”
On the whole, though, he’d rather be leading the Kings through the first steps of defending their Stanley Cup championship. They were due to be on the ice for the first time Saturday, but there’s no telling what will happen from here because there haven’t been any formal negotiations for several days.
The biggest news recently was the NHL’s announcement that it had fined the Detroit Red Wings a reported $250,000 after Senior Vice President Jimmy Devellano made what the league called “inappropriate, unauthorized comments” about the labor dispute, including a comment in which Devellano called owners “the ranch” and players “the cattle” that must obey the ranchers.
Had Sutter mentioned cattle he would have been speaking literally: He has about 300 cattle on his farm.
Sutter was in Los Angeles at various times this summer but went back home to Alberta last weekend when he realized there was only so much preparation he could do.
“It’s just unsettling because you don’t know your timeline,” he said. “As a coach you’re giving the players a target that they always want to work on for their training and we should have had our medicals [Friday].
“The worst part, quite honestly, from a coaching standpoint about all of this is you’re not allowed contact with your players. That’s just something that for me is important because you know what, the relationships that you have with them, you want to be able to talk to them and now you can’t.”
He said he would remain in Alberta “at least until we know what’s going on,” or unless General Manager Dean Lombardi asks him to do something. “There’s some college kids that I haven’t seen yet that I’d like to see but I don’t really want to do anything until the first of October,” he said. “I hope we have something done by then.”
The only upside to the start of training camp being delayed and exhibition games having been canceled through Sept. 30 is that it gives Kings players more time to recover from their extended season and Cup celebrations and, possibly, avoid the dreaded “Stanley Cup hangover” that is a factor in winners’ inability to repeat. The delay also provides goaltender Jonathan Quick (back surgery) and winger Dustin Penner (wrist surgery) more healing time.
“They would have been borderline ready for training camp. Jonathan for sure wouldn’t have been. Dustin would have been close,” Sutter said.
“You know what? Because we had to set up our training so different, we gave them 2-1/2 weeks off after the middle of June and then right around the first of July we started. Our goal was 11 weeks of training, the way we set it up and the way we set their programs up, and they were ready for that. I think that is enough time. Because you have the Cup there are guys that for two or three days miss some of their training but for the most part, you want to get going.
“I’m also not a big guy, I don’t believe you have to play seven exhibition games. That’s my feeling. They come in and you test them and they train hard enough, if you give them two or three games, that’s what they need. They don’t need seven games.”
Sutter said his own summer was busy but enjoyable, especially the time he spent with the Cup in July. He had it at the farm, of course.
“It was awesome,” he said. “I told the players the next time that we win it I’m just going to invite all of them up here and they don’t have to run all over the world. Just come here and we can have the Cup for a week here and they can stay at the farm.”