Kings General Manager Darryl Sutter?

Photo: J. Escalera

Sutter leads practice in February 2013 – Photo: J. Escalera

By Paul Armbruster • •

When it comes to Kings prospects, Dean Lombardi is known as a general manager who makes a kid earn his spot on the big club. He prefers to leave guys in the minors where they gain experience and learn the Kings system over and over again until one day, they get the call. That routine, if you will, might occur more than once, just as it did with Dwight King who had a short stint in LA before going back down — or just a single time, as was the case with Jordan Nolan last year. The current Kings lineup is littered with such players including Trevor Lewis, Alec Martinez and Slava Voynov.

That’s why I’ve been scratching my head when it comes to Tyler Toffoli’s call up a couple of weeks ago and his apparent permanent stay here in Los Angeles. It does not follow Lombardi’s M.O. by any measure. Sure, some players are too good to keep in the AHL, like Drew Doughty who never played a single game for the Manchester Monarchs or Kyle Clifford who only played a handful of playoff games back in 2010.

But Tyler isn’t one of them. At least on the surface. I recall hearing multiple reasons why Toffoli could use some seasoning down in Manch both from Lombardi and Assistant GM Ron Hextall. Reasons such as he has work to do on defense as well as needing to improve his strength if I recall correctly. Toffoli has played just of 61 games in the AHL before the call. He now has 7 games under his belt in the NHL along with 5 points. Not bad at all.

But what was it that seemingly changed Lombardi’s usual pattern in the development of players? I asked my self this question again and again. After all, it’s not like the Kings needed Toffoli. They were playing very well ahead of his arrival. Plus, the Monarchs are fighting for a playoff spot and have spiraled downward in Tyler’s absence and can certainly use him as he was their leading scorer. I thought maybe Lombardi just wanted to give Tyler some experience before sending him back down but 7 games is quite a stretch. Of course, that sill may happen. But I doubt it.

Ahead of the big trade news yesterday, Jon Rosen posted Darryl Sutter’s post-practice quotes that included this revealing answer to a question about Brad Richardson’s return to action against Dallas:

“Gave us some energy. If he wouldn’t have, he would have been on trouble. He should’ve had a full tank. Hey, you know what? Brad works his ass off every day, right? You know what? He can play anywhere in your lineup, but it has to fit with who he’s playing with, too. Hey, that’s what I said when we brought Tyler up. You know what? The schedule forced us to carry a full roster. I asked Dean if we could. I wanted another kid who can score in the lineup in case we needed him. Some nights you need size. Some nights you need a scorer. Some nights you need the energy. Some nights you need the right winger. Some nights you need a left winger.

And with that little off-the-cuff remark, the mystery (at least in my mind) was solved. It wasn’t (necessarily) Dean Lombardi’s desire to bring up Toffoli at all. Rather, it was a request by the coach to have more firepower added to his arsenal and the GM granted it. Of course, Lombardi relies on a team of hockey experts to help him make decisions, including Special Assistant to Dean, Jack Ferreira, who was instrumental in lobbying for the Nolan and King call up ahead of the playoffs last year.

So what do you think? Do you like how the move is working out? More to the point, do you believe Dean thinks it’s a good idea overall? Or do you think maybe he’s doing his coach a favor that goes against his better judgement?

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  • Robyn

    I think that Tyler is proving his worth to Sutter and it’s obvious that Sutter likes to rotate the roster around based on the teams the Kings are playing and because our defense is weak at the moment.

    I’m no coach or GM, but it seems like a smart move on Sutter’s part. It also seems that he doesn’t consider Richardson good enough to stay in the lineup.

  • I like the results of the callup, and I also like the coordination between Lombardi and Sutter, the working relationship we get a glimpse of via those quotes.

    Toffoli is earning the right to stay from his defensive work, or actually, his work in not being a defensive liability. When he was with the Richards Carter tandem, tho, that line suffered defensive lapses, but it was not due to Toffoli. Those two guys have been defensively challenged all year as teams tailor their matchups against Kopitar, leaving Richards and Carter to face either a top checking line or a top scoring line, depending on how teams want to play Kopi. Now, Toffoli’s time on a 4th line, backed/enhanced by the great game from Richardson, gives Sutter another place to insert Toffoli without letting other teams isolate Toffoli defensively.

  • Ultimate20

    Sounds like Sutter likes to have options, and as a fan, it is nice to see a coach have options. When you make a comparison to other sports, say premier league level soccer, the coach has 18-22 players to pull from, and only 11-15 will play in a game. So if coach is seeing a high level of compete from a guy in training, or a lack of performance in games, he can make switches. Loved Richardson’s effort last game. guys like him and Fraser, Clifford, Lewis it seems like they are switched to 100% effort every second of every shift which as a guy only playing 12-16 min you need to win games. In addition I think Toffoli learns more at this level, and with a short season enhances his ability to be an impact player either in the playoffs, or next year.

    Now let’s dominate the dirt dogs tonight and pass the Canucks for 4th in the conference.
    Thanks for the ongoing nice work and articles!

  • Mik3ysfv

    No way. This is Lombardi’s masterpiece/baby. If anything, DS has latitude within Lombsrdi’s plan give or take a degee or two. No way Lombardi lets anyone but himself ruin what he has so patiently a painstakingly built. He learned that in SJ.

  • Craig Schrader

    no question in my mind that dl and ds are tight…and it would be somewhat remarkable if dl didn’t ask ds for his input on tt boy…

    i can totally understand both sides of the issue…but i do believe that dl was more inclined to favor ds’s opinion based upon dl’s knowledge of how hard and expensive it is to trade for a top-sixer this season…many of the players that were dealt thus far…jagr, roy, morrow, etc…are either at the tail end of their career or just don’t fit into the kings design…

    ryan clowe would have been a nice coup, but not even dl and his ol’ ties to the shark tank, would be able to convince san jose to deal a player like clowe to a division rival…at least, not for anything less than an overpayment…

    so, maybe it’s just the right timing for dl to step out of his “box”es and do something considered unconventional by his standards…so far, it’s paying off nicely…

  • Craig Schrader

    i’m not sure if there’s a difference between richardson and former king/current devil peter harrold…if anything, harrold played both forward and defenseman, so you can make the argument that harry is more valuable to a team, even though richardson can play all three forward positions…

    when the kings first got richardson from colorado back in ’08-09 for a second-round pick, i thought we made a great bargain…i had seen richardson play with the avs and he had only one speed – fast…very fast…

    but since then, all richardson has done is remind us of craig johnson – another former king that had a rocket for an engine, but not much else to be a serious scoring threat…i understand all the reasons why the kings would feel somewhat compelled to keep him around…but i can’t see him staying with us next season…

    heck, the trade deadline isn’t until tomorrow, so who knows if boston wants another “depth player” considering they seem to be the big spenders thus far…the rangers, oilers and, of course, la east, are all possible destinations for a player who once had so much promise, but now seems like his window of opportunity in the league is closing fast…