Sutter keeps Kings grounded, focused

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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.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Will Gar Forman's plan work?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Will Gar Forman's plan work?

On the latest edition of the SportsTalk Live Podcast, David Kaplan is joined by Rick Telander (Chicago Sun-Times) and Mark Carman (WGN Radio) to talk Bulls. 

The panel breaks down the trade with Oklahoma City and question whether the team is better or worse now. 

Later, the guys talk about the Blackhawks' trade for Tomas Jurco and also break down the upcoming Daytona 500. Finally, Telander discusses his five-part series chronicling the Orr High School basketball team as they excel on the court and try to survive off it. 

Listen to the SportsTalk Live Podcast below. 

Blackhawks acquire Tomas Jurco from Red Wings

Blackhawks acquire Tomas Jurco from Red Wings

General manager Stan Bowman saw the potential in Tomas Jurco several years ago.

For the 24-year-old forward, it wasn’t working out with the Detroit Red Wings. Perhaps a change of scenery, an opportunity on a team that could vie for another Stanley Cup, makes a difference. The Blackhawks are about to find out.

The Blackhawks acquired Jurco for a third-round pick in this year’s draft on Friday afternoon. The 24-year-old Jurco has played in 16 games with the Red Wings this season but has yet to collect a point. In four seasons with the Wings, Jurco had 15 goals and 24 assists in 159 games. Red Wings general manager Ken Holland told Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press that, “things haven’t worked out” for Jurco there and that he wanted to go elsewhere.

Jurco was on a bye as a member of the Red Wings but, now that he’s with the Blackhawks, the bye ends. Bowman was hopeful Jurco would join the Blackhawks at practice on Saturday. Also, to clear a roster spot for Jurco, the Blackhawks reassigned Vinnie Hinostroza to the Rockford IceHogs.

[RELATED: Nick Schmaltz gaining confidence, effectiveness with Blackhawks]

Bowman said he’s been watching Jurco for a few seasons now.

“We’ll be patient with him but we really think there’s a good fit there, looking at his skills and the style of hockey we play,” Bowman said. “He’s been an accomplished player at a lot of different levels. He’s shown flashes in the NHL, not as consistently as he or the Wings would like, but you can see the talent and potential. You have to have some patience with these guys. It doesn’t always come together right away. I’m not expecting him to carry our team but I think he can contribute.”

It was an under-the-radar trade for Bowman but that’s not surprising. In late January, Bowman said he probably wouldn’t do much at the trade deadline; he liked how the Blackhawks’ young players were progressing and figured, if that continued, the team would be in good shape. Since then the Blackhawks have won eight of their last nine and are just three points behind the Western Conference-leading Minnesota Wild. As the Blackhawks kept winning it looked like, if they did anything, it would be a depth move.

So will there be any more moves? At this point it doesn’t seem likely, be it on forward or defense – Bowman didn’t have an update on Niklas Hjalmarsson (upper body) but said he’s happy with the depth in Chicago and Rockford on defense. Bowman said he’ll keep talking but, “but it’s a little bit different than in previous years when I thought we definitely needed something and were lacking in an area.”

“I’ve had a feeling about our team, not just recently but even a month ago. I liked the way this group was starting to come together,” Bowman said. “We’ve seen that enhanced over the last couple of week here. We’ve seen players step up, [Nick] Schmaltz in particular. [Ryan] Hartman’s been good all year. We’ve seen Jonathan [Toews] become a dominant player again. It gives your team a confidence that you have balance, scoring in different lines. We just added a young player to help us now as well as in the future. There’s a lot to be excited about. I’m not expecting more trades. I can’t predict more will happen but I have a good feeling about this group right now.”