Sometimes, the best landing place for a player is the place where you were all along, especially if it’s been a good fit for the player and the team. As much as people want to drum up some intrigue because it is more fun to speculate about where he might go rather than where he might stay, logic and history tells you that all this Suter talk is just that - talk - and that when the dust settles and the Preds make him an offer, it’ll be enough to get a deal done.
KINGS RIDING HIGH: For a team that hadn’t won a playoff series since 2001 or made a Stanley Cup finals appearance since 1993, the Los Angeles Kings have a surprisingly high number of players with significant playoff experience. Justin Williams won with the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006; Dustin Penner with the Anaheim Ducks in 2007; and Colin Fraser with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2010. And then there are the players that made it the final and lost: Jarret Stoll and Matt Greene (Edmonton, 2006); plus Mike Richards, Jeff Carter and the injured Simon Gagne (Philadelphia, 2010). As for Willie Mitchell, he made it for the conference final with the Minnesota Wild in 2003. Edge in being-there, done-that to L.A. in the third round vs. the Phoenix Coyotes, who can pretty much just rely on the ageless Ray Whitney, plus former Ottawa Senator Antoine Vermette. Raffi Torres would count too, except that he’s serving a 25-game suspension; he was with the Oilers in ’06. Whitney, who was Williams’s teammate in Carolina, celebrated his 40th birthday this past Tuesday, his teammates honouring him with a series of gag gifts that included a walker. Ouch.
THE SAYINGS OF CHAIRMAN DARRYL: One of the more curious back stories in the Kings-Coyotes series is how it matches Sutter against Jim Playfair, who was an assistant on his Calgary Flames’ coaching staff in 2004 when they made it to the Stanley Cup final against the Tampa Bay Lightning and then was Sutter’s designated heir when he stepped down as coach following the 2006 season. Playfair lasted just one season as an NHL head coach and is now an assistant on Dave Tippett’s staff in Phoenix, joining them this year after spending the previous year with the AHL’s Abbotsford Heat.
Both Sutter and Playfair think that their current teams share some characteristics with Calgary in 2004, a team that was a sixth seed but knocked off three division titlists to advance to the final. If the Kings get there this year, they’ll need to do the same, after knocking off the Northwest champion Vancouver Canucks and the Central champions the St. Louis Blues in the first two rounds. According to Sutter, the Kings’ Jonathan Quick reminds him a little of Miikka Kiprusoff.
“They play a lot the same way in their styles - same practice habits, both have real similar work ethics, both have the same demeanour in the locker room, but there are real similarities between these two guys.”
The biggest difference? At centre.
“Our team in Calgary was more of a veteran role-player group,” said Sutter. “You get (Anze) Kopitar, (Mike) Richards, (Jarret) Stoll and (Colin) Fraser on this team, and that's a pretty good group of centremen.
“You look at the role players and the centremen that did such an awesome job in '04, Stephane Yelle, Craig Conroy, Marcus Nilsson, guys like that. So there is a big difference in the calibre of player, I think.”
QUOTABLE: Sutter was asked if he had confidence in Jonathan Bernier, should anything ever happen to Quick? “Absolutely,” replied Sutter. “He's next in line. Then there is Ron Hextall and Billy Ranford. Both guys won Conn Smythes so he's got his work cut out for him.”
Hextall, for those that don’t know, is the team’s assistant general manager, Ranford the Kings’ goalie coach. Hextall won the Conn Smythe as playoff MVP in a losing cause for Philadelphia in 1987; Ranford on the Oilers’ 1990 championship team.
DOAN TELLS ALL: The cameras caught Nashville Predators’ coach Barry Trotz, pausing for a moment to talk to Coyotes’ captain Shane Doan in the handshake line, after Phoenix eliminated them in five. What was said in that brief moment? It appeared as if Trotz told him to ‘go win it all.’
“He just was encouraging me,” said Doan. “He and I have stayed friends since we worked together at the worlds. I really admire the way he handles himself as a man and everything he does off the ice. He was saying it's too bad we had to meet in this round and it couldn't be further on. But he was happy for me individually, and said that he'd be cheering for me and he admired and respected the way I stuck with it here and hoped that we had success.”