Darryl Sutter is Kings' leading man, even if it doesn't suit his style

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Darryl Sutter

Kings Coach Darryl Sutter speaks during a news conference at Staples Center on Tuesday. Sutter has guided the Kings to within four wins of capturing their second Stanley Cup in three seasons. (Bruce Bennett / Getty Images / June 3, 2014)

The face of Hollywood's hockey revolution looks like a closed fist.

The most powerful voice of Tinseltown's growing hockey chorus is an undiscernible mumble.

The biggest name on the Southland's coolest sports powerhouse is one that many people around town still can't correctly pronounce.

It's Darryl Sutter, as in "butter," but doesn't spread quite so sweetly or easily.

The coach of the Kings is the antithesis of the glamour vibe that Los Angeles expects from its sports coaches. He doesn't flow like Doc Rivers. Nobody is calling him anything cutesy like Darryl Hockey. He would consider Pete Carroll's "Always compete" mantra as too wordy. One gets the feeling that if he were ever introduced to Zen, he would make him a healthy scratch for being too soft.

During games Sutter is that squinting, scowling guy behind the bench. After games he is that terse and sometimes surly conductor of painful televised news conferences filled with sarcastic answers, dismissive stares, and awkward silences.

As the Kings embark on their second Stanley Cup Final in three years this week against the New York Rangers, with the sport still struggling to gain a foothold among the casual area sports fans, Darryl Sutter would seem to be the worst possible salesman at the worst possible time.

Except, see, he's perfect. He's sold a beaten-down Kings franchise on a championship culture. He's sold their long-suffering fans on championship fun. And, in his best move yet, he's sold the public on the incorrect notion that he's a jerk.

It's Darryl Sutter, as in rudder, which he has considered his job description for this once unsteady team.

Sutter gets dirty so his players can stay clean. He becomes a villain so his players can look like angels. He bats away questions during uncomfortable news conferences so his players won't later face those same pitches.

He fights away what he considers intrusions into his team so his players can play in peace.

The players love his act so much that they have actually watched those news conferences in the dressing room, howling with each clipped verb and muddled explanation.

"They are definitely interesting, we just laugh at some of the things he says," said Mike Richards. "We can tell he cares about the players, he knows what we're going through, he knows what it takes to create success."

The players know that every arrow invited by Sutter is one less blow they have to absorb.

"He takes the attention off us and let's us play our game," said Tyler Toffoli.

It was a disappointment during Tuesday's Stanley Cup media day that Sutter didn't have a chance to strut his stuff. He shared his news conference with Dean Lombardi, the Kings' more talkative general manager.

Sutter was only asked seven questions. There was none of his double-talk fun that was once parodied on "Saturday Night Live." There was none of the mumbling that has led to local radio shows running gags with Sutter imitators or providing Sutter translations.

Afterward, your brave correspondent tentatively approached Sutter as he left the stage.

Even at age 55, he appears strong enough to knock your block off. Yet when the topic of his cantankerous news conferences was broached, his handshake was firm, and there was actually a bit of a twinkle in his eye.

"In every sport, there are coaches who want to sell it," Sutter said. "I don't have to sell it."

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