Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Darryl Sutter being locked out of his own team's dressing room isn't that big a deal.

As far as the Kings locking out Darryl Sutter so he couldn’t enter the dressing room, that has to be taken in context, as this report does very well.

We fans tend to think that the coach(es) stalk the dressing room before the game, between periods and after the game, pumping them up Herb Brooks-style, or haranguing them if they’re not performing up to their standards. This is a fallacy perpetuated by the movies, but also by our common experience in minor hockey, where the coaches would be in the room with us, for want of anywhere else to be.

In the NHL, the coaches have their own meeting room, and an office in their home rink where they can take a break, put their heads together and make adjustments based on how the game is going. Coaches also usually recognize that it’s ‘the players’ room’, and some if not most will leave them to sort things out between themselves, beside an occasional or perfunctory pep talk between periods to communicate any changes, goalie changes, etc.

Michel Therrien has been very clear to the media that he tends to leave the players to figure things out, that it’s their room to run. Brian Gionta last year, now the leader quartet are those who give the pep talks and dish out encouragements and corrections between periods, with assists from vets like Manny Malhotra, and big inputs from Carey Price, etc.

Coach Therrien also made it clear that he will almost never enter the dressing room after a game, especially after a loss. He admitted that it’s too easy to let your emotions get the better of you after a tough game, and explained that whatever corrections need to be made, they can be handled more coolly, clinically during the next practice.

I’ve noted that this season’s 24CH episodes reflect that, spotlighting on the player interactions in the dressing room, and seldom showing any coaches in there, short of Dan Lacroix taking the picture of the boxing cape ceremony after wins. The first season, we saw a lot more of the coaches, how they’d wrestle with various issues or discussed adjustments between periods over a slice of pizza, how they’d give a pep talk of a minute or so sometimes between periods. I remember one episode where, during a game where things were going badly, Michel Therrien came in, and instead of lighting into his team, he calmly sat down and asked his team what they thought was going wrong. This year, bupkus.

So maybe the L.A. Kings grew tired of the “series of lectures/tirades” from Darryl Sutter, maybe that coach handles his business differently, and it became a burr under the saddle of the team, but it’s not that flagrant a case of insubordination as some seem to think it is. The Kings players may have tried to enact the practice that is common with other NHL clubs, to hold a ‘Players-only meeting’, and it degenerated somewhat from there.

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