There were Chicago connections with the Kings as their head coach Darryl Sutter was a former Blackhawk player and bench boss. After being selected in the 11th round with the 179th pick in the 1978 NHL Amateur Draft, Sutter played his entire career as a Blackhawk.
In the old Chicago Stadium, my season tickets were in the row behind where the player’s wives were seated. Darryl’s wife Wanda, was there for every game no matter how poorly the club was doing. Toward the end of Darryl’s playing career it was particularly tough on his wife because Sutter was a frequent healthy scratch.
In a conversation we had during the 1986-1987 season, Darryl’s last, I commented to Wanda he would make a good head coach and she said that would be a big decision. Darryl saw what could happen when a former player was given a NHL coaching job before he was ready. Sutter played for Keith Magnuson in the early 80′s when he had a short head coaching stint. Magnuson wasn’t a head coach in the minors before getting a chance with the Hawks. He lasted less than two seasons and never coached in the NHL again.
Sutter realized he would need to go down to the International League to learn his trade and he did so. In his second season in the IHL, he won the Turner Cup. Sutter then became an assistant in Chicago and finally was promoted to head coach for the 1992-1993 season.
After the 1994-1995 campaign, Sutter suddenly quit to go back home and tend to family matters. Sutter had a young son who was diagnosed with Down syndrome, so he stepped away from coaching for a few seasons. During his departing press conference, Sutter mentioned the importance of his son having as much adult contact as possible during his early years. Sutter was doing really well as the Hawks head coach but he put his family first.
Sutter returned behind the bench with San Jose in 1997 when he was hired by current Los Angeles GM Dean Lombardi. Former Blackhawk GM Bob Pulford is Lombardi’s father in law, so there’s another Chicago connection. Also not to be forgotten is Kings fourth line center Colin Fraser, who was a member of the 2010 Cup winning team.
In late December, Lombardi made a great decision to hire Sutter as a head coach for the second time. It’s safe to say without Sutter behind the bench the Kings aren’t Stanley Cup champions today.
Next weekend in Pittsburgh the NHL Entry Draft will take place. The Draft marks the beginning of next season and the July 1 free agency signing day is also quickly approaching.
Next week, we will discuss some Draft possibilities for the Blackhawks. The Hawks will have the 18th pick in the first round including the fifth round draft pick obtained from the Rangers in the John Scott trade. The Hawks will have a total of eight selections.
My gut feeling is there will be some big trades in the next 10 days. For the Hawks to take part in those dealings GM Stan Bowman may have to expand his comfort zone. Up until now, Bowman has made a habit of trading with GM’s who he has worked alongside of in Chicago.
Interestingly, the final contest of the season had a familiar slant. Inconsistent officiating and dangerous hits were a big part of last season and they were also featured in the elimination game on Monday night.
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