Darryl Sutter behind the Kings bench during the Stanley Cup Final against New Jersey. He was on his cattle ranch in Canada when the season started.
Darryl Sutter was at his Alberta, Canada cattle ranch in December when he received a phone call from LA Kings General Manager Dean Lombardi, who offered him a job as the team's head coach in the wake of Terry Murray's dismissal.
"I think I was in the barn," Sutter said. "I wasn't shoveling s---, I remember that. But I had that day."
Now, he's behind the bench of a team that is closing in on the Stanley Cup. The LA Kings -- undefeated on the road this post-season -- can close out New Jersey Saturday in Game 5 in Newark.
LA leads the best-of-seven series 3-1 after dropping Wednesday's Game 4 matchup at Staples Center, 3-1.
The reasons behind the team's stunning late-season run are many -- Jonathan Quick's goaltending and the Kings' ability to kill power plays chief among them -- but Sutter's experience, leadership and chemistry with his players were key to bringing LA its first shot at a Stanley Cup since 1993.
"He just tells you how it is," said Kings defenseman Drew Doughty. "If you're doing a good job, he's going to let you know you're doing a good job. But when he does he's still telling you to get the other guys going. He's honest, straight to the point, and he gets everything out of us.
"If you're not playing well, he's kind of sarcastic. It's not funny at all. It's sucks. He's a little scary at times."
That sarcasm was on display Wednesday night after the Kings fell short of sweeping the Devils. He was asked about whether the team has a problem in Game 4 playoff matchups.
"Awesome,'' he said with sarcasm. "Close out a series in Game 4? It's the Stanley Cup finals.''
He was asked again Thursday about what the team needed to do to finish off New Jersey.
"Continue to play the way we're playing. That's why you play series,'' he said. "Unfortunately, we have some spoiled people that think that everyone wins 16 in a row or something. A little confusing to me.''
Consider the Kings' season as a whole to this point brings some perspective.
Murray was in his fourth season as Kings head coach when the team decided it was time for a change in December. The Kings made the playoffs the previous two seasons, but both seasons ended in the conference quarterfinals.
The Kings started the 2011-12 season 5-1-1, but dropped to 13-12-4. Sutter -- the former Calgary Flames GM and coach dubbed the "cantankerous Jolly Rancher" by a Calgary Herald columnist -- took over in mid-December and the team remained locked in a Western Conference race for the final playoff spot.
"I heard he's a bit of a yeller," Doughty said at the time.
He's also a bit of an optimist.
"I knew we had a chance to be a playoff team," Sutter said. "Once you get in, anything happens, right? Just the way the conference was, we'd gone from anywhere from third to 11th in three or four games. That's the best part of it because it helps the players understand how tight it was."
Once the Kings got in the playoffs as the Western Conference No. 8 seed with a 40-27 record (95 points) record, the team turned into a freight train -- rolling through the top three seeds on its way to a Stanley Cup showdown with the Devils without losing a game on the road.
Watch Saturday's game at 5 p.m. on NBC4.