LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 18: Head Coach Darryl Sutter of the Los Angeles Kings smiles, kind of.
So who predicted this match-up?
Darryl Sutter has lead the Kings through the first two rounds in pretty convincing fashion. Taking down the Canucks (4-1) and sweeping the Blues (4-0). It appears the Flames of 2004 are being drawn into present day talk for comparison to both the Coyotes and Kings playoff surge.
Jim Playfair is anxious to make the comparison here.
SBNation's Bruce Ciskie is just as anxious to compare the Kings to the Flames of 2004 here.
Get back to me when you have a hockey celebration a mile long with thousands of people - New Orleans Mardi Gras style (minus the beads and plus the Flames sweaters). Where are the Green Hardhats? Where is the epic chants in the streets with thousands of people?
On one hand it is a compliment that the Flames 2004 run is still remembered by others out there. It did get splashed around the world as a spontaneous public celebration with some unique aspects *smile*.
But for Flames fans the memory of 2004 has definitely started to fade, it will always be a fond memory but with the realization setting in that the run led to a lot of poor hockey management decisions and a mindset that persisted for many years that the Flames were close to a Cup, instead of just a team that went on a great Cinderella run, well looking back that premature promotion of Darryl Sutter was really a historically bad decision.
Nonetheless, does the comparison have merit?
In the Kings case it doesn't.
Darryl Sutter himself in this interview is directly asked about the Kings being comparable to the Flames of 2004. He is clearly hesitant in making the comparison, acknowledging the similar aspect of great goaltending but more of less stopping at that point.
The Flames comparison is begged at the 4:20 mark in the interview.
I have to admit, I kind of miss the Darryl Sutter interviews, never hesitant to stonewall the journalists and flat out disagree with them, even on soft ball questions.
There is just something amusing about it, but he is right. Aside from elite Goaltending, what is similar about the Flames of 2004 and the Kings of 2012? The Kings are a much more rounded team, younger and once you leave the net the differences are significant.
The Flames of 2004 played a grinding, clutch and grab game. The Kings play a style suited to post-lock-out hockey and they are built that way. Drew Doughty or Robyn Regehr in his prime, who do you prefer today? Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown or Iginla as the super-star with Craig Conroy, Marcus Nilson and Gelinas playing the best hockey of their lives?
Even as a Flames fan it is easy to pick which team's roster I would rather have. It isn't even close, the Kings by a country mile. Young and built to last with a solid roster, Lombo should take a bow.
Darryl Sutter as the coach himself is really what makes the frail comparable take root at all and Darryl Sutter is a good coach. He never should have been a GM. He made one lucky trade for Kipper and was put on a pedestal since 2004 in Calgary, no one able to question or block the direction he was taking the team in.
Well, we all know how it turned out and Jay Feaster today is sifting through the remains and staring into the black abyss of emptiness in 22-26 age bracket on the Flames roster.
Sutter himself is the comparable and what he brings is key for the Kings, it may have been their missing link. He brings focus, hard work, commitment and a whole bag of tricks for playoff hockey. He mumbles to players to the point that many admited to be unable to understand him and eventually they will understand that the answer its not within the coach but within themselves. Journalists ask why the team plays better for him? Sutter mumbles back that they play for each other, not him.
It is that thing a coach gives a team, that thing that takes them from automatons looking for answers to self-driven players who know their role, know the on-ice answers and the total buy-in is there for everyone. This Kings look good. They could win the Cup, you can't deny it, they have in quick and convincing fashion dispatched the #1 and #2 teams of the West.
The Blues were a strong team but I never liked their goaltending. I got put through the equivalent of a internet wood-chipper when I tried to discuss this on-line elsewhere. Run over with a truckload of Goalie stats pointing out where Halak and Elliot were in SV% and GAA and mocked as having gone "Full Re-tard" in my comments but I had started watching a lot of Blues games over the end of the season and I do not especially like either Goalie, despite their stellar stats on the season.
You can tell by watching positioning, how they track the puck etc etc. Numbers be damned, great Goalies have a certain form to them in their positioning, there is a difference between scrambling and being athletic but I'm not going to bore you with beer on the coach goalie analysis.
Hitchcock in his post-game made comments that made me nod. See if they make you think of a certain Goalie Flames fans may have gotten very spoilt watching for many years, spoilt to the point they take it for granted.
The Blues are on the rise, a great team but lacking a few pieces. They are not there yet but the potential is unquestionable.
Onto the Predators and Coyotes.
The Predators given what their roster is, are almost disappointing this year but this is another successful season in franchise history, through once again to the 2nd round, they have their next ceiling to break to get through to the Conference Final.
The fact expectations for the franchise are rising is good but they upset their room balance with their late additions. Player suspensions by the team, whether you agree or not, is a distraction to the team. Players not committing to team curfews is a distraction, it could not have helped them.
But still a young, strong team with great pieces but now the question rises for the off-season, will they pay the price to resign some of the great players they have. Will they finally rise to the top of the Cap to stay competitive?
I hope so.
Dave Tippet Coach of the Coyotes also tags the Pred's distraction as part of the reason they were dispatched.
Should be a great Conference Final as the West will deliver a team on the hunt for their first ever Stanley Cup. It would be nice to see either team take it.