The Los Angeles Kings have all the ingredients to make a run at the Stanley Cup. They are deep up front, on defense and in goal.
But they are strangely adrift, as they proved while falling 8-2 to the Red Wings with interim coach John Stevens at the helm.
So new coach Darryl Sutter is positioned to become the difference maker. He will crack the whip on this talented and well-compensated team and start sorting the leaders from the passengers.
Injured veteran Mike Richards, one of the NHL's better two-way centers,figures to buy in right away. He figures to be a key figure once he returns to active duty.
So does sturdy winger Dustin Brown, the worthy team captain. He has always been willing to play a hard game.
But what about super-talented center Anze Kopitar? What about cornerstone defenseman Drew Doughty? What about power forward Dustin Penner, a hulking non-factor that no team was willing to take off GM Dean Lombardi's hands this fall?
These are the players Sutter must winner over ASAP.
“With everything that's gone on, guys have got to take responsibility in here because it doesn't matter whether Stevens is our coach or whoever they're bringing in,” Brown told the Los Angeles Times. “It doesn't make a difference who the coach is. It's going to be the players that play the games, and it's going to be the players that need to take responsibility.”
Sutter has the experience, resolve and persuasiveness to make that happen. Expect the Kings to make a big second-half run.