Sutter keeps Kings grounded, focused


Sutter keeps Kings grounded, focused

NEWARK, N.J. Los Angeles Kings coach Darryl Sutter demands a lot from his team. And those demands, sometimes, come in higher decibels.

He said, Its your guys job to play and mine to coach. So if you make mistakes, Ive got to coach and that means yelling, Kings defenseman Willie Mitchell said of Sutter, with a laugh. Youre supposed to play, so play well.

The Kings have been playing very well, as evidence by their meteoric trail through the Stanley Cup playoffs to the Final. And much of that credit goes to their coach. The former Blackhawks player and coach has said the right things, pushed the right buttons and found the right formula to get the most of this talented Kings group.

A coach is like a CEO: you need to teach people to develop, right? And he does that really well, Mitchell said. Its not, just do this or that, run your routes, turn your brain off and youre done. Hell say, Were doing this and this is why itll be successful. Is that going to work for you guys? It empowers his players a lot.

And his players say that Sutter is great at knowing when to command and when to commend.

His timing on both sides is good: When you need a kick in the butt he gives you a kick in the butt. When you earn a pat on the back he gives you a pat on the back, said Colin Fraser, who added that Sutter allows players to spread their wings and play to their strengths. He shows that the way he goes four lines. For a fourth liner like myself, having been on the other side and not playing much, that gives you confidence. As long as youre playing well and doing your job, he lets you go.

The results speak for themselves. The Kings were a talented group from the start this season but sputtered under former coach Terry Murray. Sutter was hired in mid-December and the Kings starting putting things together.

The Kings landed the eighth place spot in the West, finishing third in the neck-and-neck Pacific Division. But they quickly learned how to defeat the rest of their conference by focusing on their game, not their seed. It would be easy for the Kings to buckle under the pressure of their amazing run, to revel in their accomplishments and lose sight of the big prize. But Sutter doesnt let that happen. Its all about the next game, not the previous ones.

Its already worn off, even though it was a big win, Kings defenseman Drew Doughty said of the Game 1 victory euphoria. We have to go into the next game like the series is starting all over again. Darryl will make sure (that focus) doesnt slide.

Sutters focus has been especially critical for the Kings younger players.

Hes intense on game days. Hes into it. And when you see that, what are the young guys going to do? Theyre going to fall in line, said Mitchell. Its been huge for our younger players. Guys who have been around a little bit, youre prepared for this. But sometimes, young guys dont understand that, or you just dont get it at that point. Hes a guy who makes you get it.

The Kings are three victories away from their franchises first Stanley Cup, but they wont be thinking past Game 2. Their coach demands that level of focus. The Kings have responded with a higher level of game.

Hes a motivator, defenseman Matt Greene said. He does a lot to get the best out of guys, get guys going. He makes sure you know how important each shift is, every second of each shift. He demands a lot from you and demands a lot of respect coming back his way. Hes got it.

Preview: Blackhawks host Flames Monday on CSN

Preview: Blackhawks host Flames Monday on CSN

The Blackhawks (3-3, 6 points) take on the Calgary Flames (1-4-1, 3 points) on Monday, and you can catch all the action on CSN. Coverage begins with Blackhawks Pregame Live at 7 p.m. Be sure to stick around after the final horn to get analysis and player reaction on Blackhawks Postgame Live.

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Kerry Wood on Cubs World Series berth: 'More emotional than I thought it was gonna be'

Kerry Wood on Cubs World Series berth: 'More emotional than I thought it was gonna be'

Kerry Wood couldn't resist a 5 Outs joke. 

The iconic Cubs pitcher was a huge part of that 2003 team that famously came just five outs from the World Series before a Game 6 meltdown in the National League Championship Series.

As if to toy with history and laugh in its face, Joe Maddon made the five outs drama last even longer Saturday night.

Kyle Hendricks gave up a one-out single in the eighth inning with the Cubs up five and Maddon came out to make a pitching change. 

Of course, it all turned out just fine. The Cubs went on to win and silence any talk of curses or jinxes and made Steve Bartman and that 2003 just another chapter in history.

"I was good once we got past five outs away," Wood joked with reporters outside the champagne-soaked Cubs clubhouse about 90 minutes after the Cubs clinched a trip to the World Series for the first time in 71 years.

"These guys got to experience what we didn't get to experience. We got to play in this game, we just didn't get to celebrate after. Obviously extremely happy for the city. These guys have cemented themselves in history and they're gonna be linked forever.

"It's just great. We got four more to go and it's the right group to go with."

Wood said he "felt" it coming to the game, predicting with his buddies that the Cubs would jump on Clayton Kershaw and score on him early in the game.

The Cubs scored twice in the first, once in the second and then added on with solo tallies in the fourth and fifth innings off Kershaw.

"They don't listen to the history," Wood said. "It doesn't bother them. These guys come out and seem unaffected by the history. So, obviously, we're in a good place we haven't been in a long time. It's a great night.

"It's mind-blowing. Being out there with the crowd, it's such a cool experience."

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Wood pitched 12 seasons for the Cubs, but if you include the year he missed for injury (1999) and the time he's worked for the organization since retirement in 2012, he's spent nearly two decades on the North Side of Chicago.

So when he saw the Cubs record their final out and put history in the rearview mirror, Wood was overcome with emotion.

"Surprisingly a bit more than I was expecting," he said. "Just watching the guys do their thing on the field and celebrate. [MLB chief baseball officer] Joe Torre's talking and tryin to do his thing and the guys just split up and spread out and went and saw the fans - which is exactly what they should've done.

"It's a little more emotional than I thought it was gonna be."

Wood said he really started believing it was all possible when Addison Russell and Anthony Rizzo woke up with the bats in Game 4 in Los Angeles and the Cubs looked like they got their mojo back.

He also marveled at the team's youth and how poised they were throughout the entire season, especially in the face of adversity.

"I don't think [the weight of history affected them]," Wood said. "That's the key. And not saying it affected us. I don't think it affected us either. We'd go out there and play the game.

"S--t, half these guys weren't born when this stuff was going on. It's great. They got a young group and I think Joe leads them in the right direction and doesn't let them get caught up in the off-the-field stuff. It's just a great combination top to bottom."

Wood threw out the first pitch before the historic Game 6 Saturday night, wearing a Ron Santo jersey.

Three hours later, he was still wearing the jersey, even celebrating with fans:

And he plans right on wearing the No. 10 jersey for at least another week.

"Ronnie didn't get to see this," Wood said of Santo, who died in 2010. "He didn't get to witness this night. Definitely going to wear it all the way through. Hopefully that will let him experience it a little bit with me. 

"I expect big things and I'll see you guys in Cleveland."