Famously taciturn Darryl Sutter was at his terse best on Tuesday night when asked about Nic Dowd's debut:
Okay, so perhaps that line doesn't live up to "Park and ride" or "They haven’t lost at home since Christ was a child" or "Fly at 11" or "Cages are a good thing." But for some reason, it felt familiar. And it was! This was after Michael Mersch's debut just three months ago:
It made me think. Sutter has a reputation for withholding praise (and playing time) from rookies. So I thought it would be fun, and hopefully hilarious, to look back at his reactions to every Kings NHL debut in his tenure. Truthfully, I was hoping to find as many variations of "I thought he was solid" as possible...and I did find one more!
A couple months after replacing Terry Murray, Sutter had yet to discover a winning line-up formula. In a bid to go younger and bigger, Los Angeles called Nolan (14:18 ATOI) and Dwight King (15:11) up to battle the Islanders on February 11, 2012. This was not actually King's NHL debut; he had played under Murray. And while the Kings suffered a 2-1 OT loss, the two hulking wingers would go on to suit up for every game of that spring's championship run.
After 28 goals in 55 games, Toffoli didn't have a lot left to prove in Manchester. Hoping he could add some scoring punch to their title defense, LA unleashed the 20-year-old (13:20) on San Jose on March 16, 2013. He went scoreless, but the Kings won 5-2. Sutter, however, seemed miffed by this question about the young sniper after the game:
Pearson enjoyed the unusual distinction of making his NHL debut in a playoff game on May 18, 2013, as injuries to Jarret Stoll and Kyle Clifford opened the door for the 20-year-old. Unfortunately, the wide-eyed winger (5:44) was clearly overmatched in a 2-1 Game 3 loss to the Sharks.
An injury to Jeff Carter necessitated Vey's recall for a November 7, 2013 tilt against Buffalo. The 22-year-old, who was in the midst of his third straight strong Manchester campaign, skated 11:28 in a 2-0 whitewashing of the Sabres.
Even though Jonathan Quick had suffered a serious groin injury in mid-November, Jones wouldn't see his first NHL start until December 3, 2013 against Anaheim. But what a debut it was! The 23-year-old stopped all nine Ducks shooters on the shootout, in what was the first of eight straight victories. We still haven't learned what was "slipping" in Ben Scrivens's play, as he had gone 6-1-3 in relief of Quick.
Having wrapped up a playoff spot and wanting to rest some vets, management rewarded long-time Kings prospect Campbell—in his sixth year with the organization—with an NHL game on April 5, 2014. "Soup" was "solid" in 14:41 of a 2-1 loss to the Canucks.
After starting the season as a healthy scratch, Andreoff (12:16) finally got his shot against Edmonton on October 14, 2014 with Marian Gaborik nursing a minor injury. Andy came out punching, as he fought Matt Hendricks in his very first shift of the game. LA dominated in a 6-1 laugher, which is perhaps best remembered for this goal.
When Pearson went down with a gruesome knee injury in mid-January, management decided to give Shore, who had scored 41 points in 37 games for Manchester, a look. He skated 10:35 against Anaheim on January 17, 2015 in a 3-2 SO loss. Sutter didn't seem too impressed:
After an opening night shellacking, Sutter gave Weal some run (7:38) against the Coyotes on October 9, 2015. It was not a memorable performance in a 4-1 loss, and Sutter didn't even field a direct question about the rookie:
The coaching staff turned to Forbort, the last 2010 first-round pick to make the NHL, after Matt Greene was shut down with a season-ending shoulder injury. The Minnesota native skated 11:33 on October 16, 2015 against the Wild in a 2-1 victory, which helped the team stop its three-game season-opening losing streak. After the game, however, Sutter was quick to echo criticisms that may always dog the 6'4" defender.
With Kyle Clifford and Trevor Lewis dinged up, Los Angeles called up Mersch, who had scored 36 goals in his last 52 AHL appearances. "Big Mike" saw 11:01 in a 3-2 win over Pittsburgh on December 11, 2015.
Dissatisfied with Christian Ehrhoff's play, management looked to the rapidly-improving Gravel. The 23-year-old was given 10:46 in a 5-2 loss to the Islanders. Coach, however, noted the negative.
Los Angeles wanted Dowd to "get a chance this year," and with Kris Versteeg and Pearson out, they had an opportunity to recall the 25-year-old after seven seasons in the organization. The two-way pivot skated 12:15 to general acclaim, albeit in a 2-1 loss to Minnesota. Memorably, the St. Cloud State alum took a high stick on his very first shift; not so memorably, it was his penalty that led to the Mikko Koivu game-winner.
Here are some fun facts that I've learned while compiling this piece:
- Five players have made their NHL debuts this season, the most in Sutter's tenure. 13 Kings in all have seen their first action under the current coaching regime.
- No King who has debuted under Sutter has registered a point in that game. However, they have amassed 11 PIMs between them! On the bright side, Dowd was the first to earn a +1.
- "Solid" did end up being Sutter's favorite adjective to describe a debut, used three times! Gravel and Jones did both get a "Good for him."