Darryl Sutter: The Best Holiday Present the Los Angeles Kings Ever Got

It was three days before Christmas and the night before the beginning of Hanukkah when Darryl Sutter first stepped behind the Los Angeles Kings bench this past season.

And all that the Hollywood hockey faithful could reasonably request was a New Year’s resolution from their franchise to promptly get back to playoff contention.

Rarely does one actually fulfill any such New Year’s resolution, let alone take it above and beyond. But as evidenced by Monday night’s late spring fiesta on Figueroa, that was exactly what Sutter and the Kings have done in less than six months of collaboration.

Together, they delivered the franchise’s first Stanley Cup in 45 years of operation and became the first team seeded eighth in a conference to win the title. And they did it through a relatively quick 20 games, the most efficient championship run since the Detroit Red Wings went an identical 16-4 in 1997.

In addition, Sutter became the NHL’s third midseason-coaching replacement in the last 12 seasons to win a title without hesitation.

And to think that when the alliance began, already with 33 games off the docket and 49 yet to come, the Kings were an iffy 15-14-4 and five points out of a playoff spot. They had just discharged head coach Terry Murray and split their four games under interim replacement John Stevens, accruing a 14-6 scoring difference in favor of the opponent.

For the first two nights with Sutter, the Kings pushed their two intrastate rivals to a shootout, beating the visiting Anaheim Ducks and settling for one point against the host San Jose Sharks. Upon returning from a two-day respite, they went 3-0-1 over a four-game slate between Christmas and New Year’s.

Ultimately, it would take nine games under Sutter’s supervision for Los Angeles to lose a regulation decision. Following that 1-0 loss to Columbus, they went on another unbeaten s...

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