In a recent episode of the Spittin Chiclets podcast, former Los Angeles Kings Tyler Toffoli made an appearance and discussed his time with the Kings.
Most of the interview centered around Toffoli’s experience with Team Canada at the World Championship. However, Tofolli did talk about playing for Darryl Sutter and the mind games he would play.
Fan opinion around the league is fairly split on Sutter, but Toffoli still holds his former coach in high regard.
“I love Darryl,” said Toffoli. “It’s funny, you guys have heard all the stories, there are stories for days. But the way he treats guys, he rubs some guys the wrong way, but for me personally, I had him from the time I was 20. So, I was wrapped under his spell from day one. If you don’t play well, then you don’t play. If you don’t work, then you don’t play. If you don’t get the puck out on the wall, then you don’t play. It’s just like, that was always my whole thing, ‘I better do things right or I’ll only play three minutes tonight. And I for sure had games where I only played three shifts. And I wasn’t even playing bad.”
Amongst the rumors that the Calgary Flames locker room was tired of Sutter and wanted him out, Toffoli made it clear he wasn’t in that group.
“Going back to play for Darryl the second time, I loved it,” said Toffoli. “I had heard all of the stuff he was saying, all of the things he’d say in the video sessions. So, I knew all of it, obviously, I was one of his guys too, so that helped. But he still went after me every once in a while which kind of got me going.”
Toffoli also touched on some of the mind games Sutter would play with him early in his career.
“There was one time I was playing pretty well and I show up to the rink, and you know how guys are like the gold line, the blue line, the green line or whatever. And I was the only guy wearing my own color. I was looking around, like, ‘What is going on?’ I wasn’t playing bad, I had maybe four points in the last 10 games. I was on the fourth line, no power play or anything. Brad Richardson came up to me and was like, ‘Hey fella, don’t worry about it, you’ll be in the lineup next game I promise you. I was like, no way, clearly I’m the odd man out, I’m literally wearing my own jersey right now. Kid you not, the next day I’m back out on a line with [Jeff Carter] and someone and I’m like, ‘What’s going on?’ And there’s no communication from Darryl. Looking back on it, I think it’s hilarious. Being able to tell these stories, I think it’s awesome. He helped my career, but every body’s different right?”
Toffoli also touched on some of the mind games Sutter played last season in Calgary.
“If we had a bad first period, he would mumble, ‘I guess we have to go to WinSport (Calgary’s practice facility) tomorrow.” He added, “It would be like 0-0 and he would tell Vlady [Daniel Vladar] to get ready to go in and we’re like, it’s 0-0 and he would go, Marky’s [Jacob Markstrom] not ready to play tonight. “There’s a reason it’s 0-0, Marky has like 10 saves and we haven’t touched the puck this whole period.
Some of these things clearly didn’t work with the Calgary room, but Toffoli was clear that he always found the humor in it. He also pointed out that Sutter’s mind games begin to wear on players after a while.
“Like you said, it’s all mind games,” said Toffoli. “He’s just trying to get guys going, I guess it happened in LA too, it starts to wear on guys and the change happened.”
Toffoli then went on to discuss Sutter’s now infamous postgame interview discussing rookie Jakob Pelletier. Confirming that the interview didn’t bother players, but they were upset that Sutter didn’t give Pelletier enough notice to fly his family out for his debut.
Then Toffoli mentioned Sutter doing something similar with him in Los Angeles, pointing out that Toffoli’s family missed his debut as well.
A Divisive Coach:
Over the last 18 months, Sutter has taken a lot of criticism, some of it warranted, so it was interesting to hear from a player who enjoys Sutter’s antics.
He’s a coach players either love or hate and there doesn’t seem to be much in-between.
It’s been widely reported that the mind games Sutter, and other coaches like him, play don’t have the same impact on younger players and potentially even harms his relationships with them.
Sutter is still a very good coach, but his man management style is out of date in today’s NHL.
Adapt or die, as they say.