Kings coach Darryl Sutter was hired at midseason last season and inherited a talented but underachieving team. Among the players on the roster he didn’t know much about was a young Russian defenseman named Slava Voynov. Sutter talked Wednesday about Voynov’s progress from then until now.
“I guess what I remember most was he wasn’t playing much if he was here,” Sutter recalled. “It was a big adjustment for him. There definitely was a language barrier. Whether he was uncomfortable with not wanting to converse, whatever it was. That’s an issue.
“Have to be able to coach a player and team. You have to be able to communicate. That was an issue here, in a lot of different areas. That was really important to me. The next part of it was, because of the roster, the team, I forget when it was, I know there was a point that we sent Slava back to Manchester (of the American Hockey League). At that point, it was to find a roster spot for (Dwight) King and (Jordan) Nolan. Then he came back to the big club when we traded for Jeff (Carter from the Columbus Blue Jackets). Basically, it was to replace (the traded Jack) Johnson.
“We were basically saying, ‘OK, we’re on a fine line here, we’re seeing if we’re a playoff team or not, but let’s put the young player in there, have a veteran player to partner with him. What’s the progress he’s made since then? I think we put him in a position to succeed, not to fail. He’s a young player. He has so little experience, you think about it, game experience at this level. Quite honest, he’s probably got as much playoff experience as regular‑season experience. I bet it’s close now.
“There’s been highs and lows in this season. There’s been highs and lows in this playoffs, that’s for sure.”