EL SEGUNDO, Calif. – Darryl Sutter is the first to acknowledge that most teams take on injuries like a boat taking on water, especially as the season gets longer. His Los Angeles Kings had their share with two-thirds of their top line and their top two defensemen playing with pain in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
But Sutter had some pointed words when he spoke Monday about how tough this season was to navigate and how difficult success is to sustain in the NHL. He doesn't see any missing pieces in the organization after the Kings were eliminated in the Western Conference Final by the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday night.
"I don't think anything's missing," Sutter said. "We did win this year. You don't think we win? You don't think Anaheim won this year? We win. You go from 30 [teams] to 16 to eight to four to two to one and you can't win the Stanley Cup every year. I don't like going on [about] this, but there are some awful spoiled people in the media and awful spoiled people in this organization that think that … [the Kings have] played more playoff games in the last year – year – than any other team in hockey.
"I have no problem with anything other than we're a really young team and we can get better from an individual standpoint. You learn that … with the way it sets up with schedule and playoffs, you have to be able to keep your roster or your lineup that's consistent. If you look at the difference between Chicago and Los Angeles, you'd say that Chicago was a healthy team going into this last round."
That Sutter was able to get the defending Cup champions this far is an accomplishment given that L.A. began the season without defensemen Willie Mitchell and Matt Greene after the season opener. The Kings lost centers Jarret Stoll and Mike Richards to concussions during the postseason, and it was later revealed that captain Dustin Brown (knee), right wing Justin Williams (shoulder) and defenseman Drew Doughty (ankle) played hurt. Sutter revealed Monday that Doughty's partner, Robyn Regehr, needs elbow surgery.
L.A. still managed to become the fourth team since 2000 to make the conference final a year after it won the Stanley Cup. Since he landed in L.A. in December of 2011, Sutter has gone 52-29-16 in the regular season and 25-13 in the playoffs.
"I think Darryl did a tremendous job," defenseman Rob Scuderi said. "I've loved playing for him as a player. He has a great feel for what the team has going on and almost, in a sense, what the team is thinking. He knows how to counteract with that or worked with it, and I've really enjoyed playing for him … you think about a Stanley Cup hangover and teams that struggle. I'm not saying that we didn't have struggles during the season, but you can't overlook the job that Darryl and our coaching staff has done."
After it finished 29th in the League in scoring during the 2011-12 regular season at 2.29 goals per game, the Kings actually finished 10th this season at 2.73 per game. Of course, the offense dried up like the Sahara Desert at 2.06 goals per game in the postseason as Sutter tried to squeeze blood out of a stone.
"This postseason was probably a lot different, stressful, for him to try and find something that worked for everybody," Richards said.
Sutter did acknowledge the challenges of the shortened season from L.A.'s perspective. He had familiarity with it from the 1994-95 season.
"But was it tougher?" Sutter said. "Sure it's tougher, because our players were awesome with it. There was no hangover. There was only positives taken from it. Obviously the only negative from a short summer was the guys that didn't start the year – Greene, Mitchell, [Anze] Kopitar [from a knee injury] and quite honestly Jonathan [Quick because of back surgery] probably until January or February."
The clock in Sutter's head began its countdown on the plane ride home from Chicago on Saturday. Call it 100 days of Sutter's summer. Kings players will report back to the organization Sept.11, actually 93 days from Monday.
"Count the days," said Sutter, whose contract was extended in January through the 2016-17 season. "Start getting ready. I started doing that on the plane ride home the other night. There was no – what do you call it - de-compressing."
Scuderi, 34, is set to become an unrestricted free agent and there's some doubt whether he will come back to L.A.
"I haven't had any time to think about that," he said. "I imagine in the next few days, there will be some conversations and short discussions. But as a player, this is a place that is certainly a desirable location. It's got everything you need for myself and most importantly, for my family. The team's good. I've been here. I'm comfortable here. It will just take me a little more time to gain perspective and just relax for right now."
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