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34 Days to Go: LA’s Coaches Don’t Usually Start Very Well

When the time comes for Darryl Sutter to retire, what might we expect from the new coach?

Buffalo Sabres v Los Angeles Kings Photo by Stuart Franklin/Bongarts/Getty Images

Darryl Sutter’s run to the Stanley Cup was the stuff of legend. Sutter became the fifth coach in NHL history to take a team to a Cup after taking over in the middle of the season, and only the third to do it for a team with more losses than wins when he started. However, it’s become clear over the past few years that Sutter took over a bit of a sleeping giant. Not every Kings coach has been so lucky; most have only been able to win so much with the team the prior coach left behind.

How much do they usually win in their first season on the bench? As it turns out, 34 games is a good guess. Here’s the rundown of how many games each coach won in their first full year:

42 wins: Robbie Ftorek
39 wins: Barry Melrose, Andy Murray
34 wins: Bob Berry, Pat Quinn, Tom Webster, Terry Murray
31 wins: Red Kelly, Bob Pulford, Ron Stewart
27 wins: Don Murray, Marc Crawford, Darryl Sutter (lockout-shortened season)
25 wins: Larry Regan
24 wins: Larry Robinson
Did not finish: Parker MacDonald, Mike Murphy, Hal Laycoe

As it turns out, Darryl Sutter had the best winning percentage in his first full season of any coach in Kings history. That hasn’t always been an indicator of success, however: Ftorek had the most wins of a first-season coach and Melrose made the Stanley Cup Final in his first year, but neither made it to the end of their third season. Andy Murray did, but after his third full season, he never made the playoffs again. Sutter’s made it work, though, and it seems unlikely he’ll be fired unless he oversees a truly disastrous season.

It’s been rumored that either Davis Payne or John Stevens will take over for Sutter when he retires. Hopefully, whoever it is wins more than 34 games, and if they do, hopefully their career is more Sutter than Melrose.