Originally posted on Fox Sports West  |  Last updated 12/21/11
Players on the Los Angeles Kings had a very "open door" approach with Terry Murray, dismissed December 12 after three and a half seasons of helping lead the club from the depths of the Western Conference back into the playoffs and towards the higher expectations placed upon it. "Especially the last few years, we were a growing team, he didn't come in and yell at young guys," Captain Dustin Brown explained prior to Murray's 500th NHL victory last month. For Brown and the rest of the players on Los Angeles' roster, expect that elusive "message" to be delivered much more clearly and directly. Darryl Sutter was introduced as the 24th Head Coach in Kings history on Wednesday and from his Viking, Alta. cattle farm brings with him a gruff honesty that has both startled and endeared himself to the players on the bench in front of him. "I think Darryl's the polar opposite of Terry in terms of just the way they go about getting their message across," defenseman Matt Greene said. "Terry's a more X's and O's guy, and Darryl's more emotional. It's different for a lot of guys, but something's got to change with this group right now. This is definitely going to be a big change, and hopefully it's exactly what we need." After an introduction by Hall of Fame Broadcaster Bob Miller, Sutter was able to address the expectations he's looking for from his players, and how his style of coaching will endeavor to highlight their talents. "I think I'm really honest, firm, try to get the most out of them," Sutter said. "You hear about overachievers and underachievers. Really, overachieving is getting the most out of yourself, and I think that's what I can help a lot of guys with. There are a lot of guys who have a lot of growth going forward, and for the rest of their careers. And I think there's a veteran group that we have to push to help our young players get better.'' Los Angeles General Manager Lombardi underscored Sutter's goal to continue to raise the expectations of the players and demand more out of them in order raise the team's collective potential. "I totally agree with him," Lombardi said. "I get it when players have changed on the outside, but I'm not buying it. Because I believe deep down, they want to be pushed. It's the Tom Landry thing, and that hasn't changed. Deep down the athlete you have to get him to do what he doesn't want to do so he can become what he wants to become. And I believe it. It's just harder to get there today. Whether you want to call it all the hoopla, or the money, and you can throw that in the mix it's certainly harder. But in the end, I believe the athlete still wants to be pushed. At times, they're not going to like it." Lombardi who also hired Sutter to coach the San Jose Sharks prior to their string of four consecutive seasons in which the Sharks improved their point total reflected back on his original conversations prior to Sutter's hiring in 1997. "I went through all the interviews first time I hired a coach and the bottom line, I said, 'heck with these interviews, let me talk to guys, players I respect,'" Lombardi said. "They said, 'he's hard, but I'd play for him in a New York minute.'" "As soon as he comes in, your team starts getting an identity," Lombardi said But didn't the Kings already have a fairly firm identity? With intermittent exceptions, work ethic and commitment have not been problems that this year's Kings have faced. They're sturdy down the middle and defensively. They're among the most physical teams, ranking second in the league in hits. You could throw out a dozen names of players in the locker room that emanate character players like Greene and Brown and Willie Mitchell, amongst many others. This is not a team that lacks effort or reputation. They just don't score goals. So apparently Sutter is going to push the team harder, but can he yell at the puck to get into the net? "There are little areas of the game that we can be a lot better at, and we'll score more goals," Sutter said. "In the big part of it, this league is a 3-2 league. It's not a 5-2 or a 5-4. It's a 3-2 league. There's still a tremendous amount of impact by being good defenders, and not spending as much time in your own zone, spending time in the offensive zone, controlling the neutral zone. There are lots of parts to it. It's not just because we haven't scored enough goals.'' Despite the change and the need to form a new identity, there will still be a firm adherence to the defensive responsibilities that had been established under Murray. "I don't want to change our game, what Murph put in place as far as defensively, top-five in the league," Lombardi said. "But we've got to add to our game, and part of that is we're going to make it more difficult on you." If it's not the systems that are going to change under Sutter, it's the tone and delivery of the message digested by the team. When Brown was asked whether that "message" will be any different from the one gleaned from Murray, he took a long pause, eventually settling on a well-measured response. "Our approach to the X's and O's I think is going to be very similar. It's more about the attitude, and having it every night. I mean we have players in here I think kind of wear their heart on their sleeve, and I think he wants more of that." Lombardi agreed with the assessment of the team's backbone. "I do think a lot of it in having been around they really are a good group," Lombardi said. "And some of it's the other way. They're gripping it way too tight. It's not lethargic, or I quit, or I give up, it's like this. tenses up It's almost like, OK, let's get back to basics. But we've also got to start believing in ourselves here. And I think a lot of what I'm seeing, some of those veterans they have really taken this personally. You've got to start believing in yourself and not grip the sawdust out of that stick." Sutter shook off the assessment of his style being that of a disciplinarian, referencing the balance of choosing the right time to yell and the right time to step back. Some have argued that today's modern player tunes out a more old school-molded coach who offers a bit more of a heavy-handed approach. "Quite honestly, players need to be pushed and pulled. Sometimes you get pushed, sometimes you get pulled. It's simple. They want it. They want success," Sutter said. Lombardi agreed, noting that the team will benefit from a much more direct, honest message. "It's not a popularity contest. I think these players want that," Lombardi said. "They might not like the process, but in the end, they want it. "
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