Surly and I can’t tell you how we know. We just know. Some missions are better left secret. This was Surly, once again, at his stealthy finest. Warrior. Hero. Lamb sent to slaughter who continually, somehow, survives…I bring you the fruits of his labor…and mine…

Dean Lombardi stood in the middle of his office. He cupped his hands to his mouth, blew and checked his breath. He sniffed each arm pit. He adjusted his jock to ensure rod and sack were centered.

“Don’t be nervous. Don’t be nervous,” he whispered to himself. He took a long, deep breath. “Stay calm.” The office door handle turned. Dean’s eyes welled up. His long-expected visitor walked in. “Oh God, Oh God, Oh God,” Dean squealed, tears pouring from his glassy eyes as he ran into Darryl Sutter’s arms.

“Oh, Darryl. Darryl, Darryl, Darryl.” Dean’s arms wrapped firmly around Sutter’s neck in a fixed embrace.

“Dean…” Darryl spoke through gasping breath. “It’s good to see you.”

Dean released his clasp and stepped back. “Good to see you? That’s it? Is that all you have to say…” Dean choked up, “…after all this time?”

“Ahhhh! Just kidding, buddy, it’s great to see you, Dean!” Darryl held his arms out. Lombardi leapt back into them. “It’s been a long time,” Sutter told Dean.

“It has. Too long. But, here we are, together again…” Dean admired Darryl’s beloved bitter beer face. “You have not aged a bit. Look at you! You look so good! I am sorry for everything that happened in Calgary. That hack, Feaster, is going to drive that franchise right into the ground. He is no Sutter brother.”

“Yeah, well, thank you…so, let’s sit down and talk about the Kings, eh?”

“You got it!” Dean exclaimed.

Lombardi sat in the captain’s chair at his desk and grabbed a note pad. Sutter took a seat in front, crossed his legs and placed both hands, clenched together, on his knees. “So, the team is struggling to score,” Darryl stated. Lombardi nodded his head. “The offense is predictable,” Sutter continued, “too much dump and chase without a forecheck, they stay along the boards, too much focus on the dot to boards and heavy game, not enough speed through the neutral zone, not enough puck possession in the offensive zone, not enough creativity, too much defense even when playing offense, that’s what you’re hearing and seeing, right?”

Dean pursed his lips and begrudgingly continued to nod his head.

“That is what I thought,” Darryl confirmed. The two men exchanged a moment in each other’s eyes. Darryl leaned forward. “Well, what the fuck is wrong with that!?” he shouted to a sudden boisterous laughter. Dean’s eyes welled up again. “That is old time hockey, baby!” Darryl slammed both palms on Dean’s desk. Dean leapt from his chair with a “fuck yeah!” and started pumping his right arm forward and back with a closed fist.

“What the fuck was that?” Darryl asked, confused.

Dean stood still. “Oh. Um. Apparently, they call that the Pumper Nicholl. I just learned about it.”

Sutter paused for a moment. “I hate it. Don’t do it again. We agreed back in San Jose, none of that sissy Euro crap.”

Dean plopped down on his chair. “Darryl, you don’t know what I have been through. I brought in Murray because he reminded me of you. I brought in Stevens because he reminded me of you…well, in an abject dull-witted way, but still, of you. I brought in Coupon…actually, I didn’t bring in Coupon, I am still not sure how he got this job.”

“Who the hell is Coupon?” Darryl asked.

Oh,” Dean smiled, “That’s what we call Jamie Kompon.”

Sutter and Lombardi chuckled. “You get what you pay for?” Darryl asked. “You get what you pay for,” Dean answered.

“Hey, you got some coffee in this place?” Sutter looked around.

“Oh, shit, where are my manners? Of course.” Dean pressed an extension on his phone. “Yes, Mr. Lombardi,” a woman’s voice answered. “Hey, Laurie, can you have one of those bloggers with press passes who exist to kiss our  asses bring some coffee for Mr. Sutter and I?”

“Right away, sir,” Laurie affirmed.

“Bloggers bring you coffee?” Darryl asked.

“Hammond refused to do it anymore. He claimed it was ‘insulting’ to his position as L.A. Kings Insider,” Dean responded, disappointed.

“Jesus, give a guy the title of ‘Insider’ and he starts to believe it…” Sutter was offended.

“Seriously…” Lombardi agreed. “Kids today, they are all pride and ego.”

Laurie called back. “Mr. Lombardi?”

“Yes, Laurie?”

“Sir, I cannot find any of those bloggers but I do have a Mr. Scribe on the phone for you. He says it’s urgent and he is trying to save you from making the biggest mistake of your career, sir.”

“Fucking Surly & Scribe,” Dean muttered. “Tell Mr. Scribe that he can go fuck…actually, you know what, Laurie, tell him I have taken to heart his recent, very well written articles and I have decided, after some reflection, he is right and Randy Carlyle will be the L.A. Kings next coach.”

“Yes, sir.” Laurie hung up the phone.

“Another blogger, eh?” Darryl asked.

“Yes. The biggest assholes of the bunch. They came out of nowhere over two years ago and they are like a wart on my dick…oh, and they’re going to love you…”

“Bring them on!” Sutter challenged.

“Sir,” Laurie called back again.

“Yes, Laurie,” Dean responded annoyed. “Mr. Scribe said to tell you thank you and you are a mother sutting, Duck loving douche bag for buying his bullshit.”

Lombardi pressed his right palm to his face. “Thank you, Laurie.”

“Yes, sir,” Laurie acknowledged.

“Mother sutting?” Darryl asked.

“No idea. Can’t win with those pricks,” Dean sighed.

“So, back on track, what are we going to do with these players?” Sutter asked.

“That is why you are here. You tell me,” Dean threw his hands in the air.

Darryl Sutter leaned forward again and squinted his eyes. “Are they broken?”

Dean thought for a moment. “Some are. Some are still holding out.”

“Interesting. I will need those names, the tough guys who are left with pride.”

“Right away,” Dean made a note on the yellow pad.

Sutter leaned back into his chair. “Did you have a talk with them after Murray’s firing?”

“I did,” Dean placed the pen and his head down.

“Uh, oh…what happened? You didn’t…”

“I did…” Lombardi wrung his hands together.

“Don’t worry about it. It happens,” Sutter encouraged. “Nothing wrong with crying in front of the troops. How they did respond?”

“Most of them laughed. Kyle Clifford left the room, mumbling something about being disgusted and meeting me in the parking lot later so, naturally, I’ve slept in my office the last two days…and Penner came to hold me but I pushed him away. I am nobody’s pansy!” Dean became angry.

“Damn right, you are not,” Darryl validated.

Lombardi took a deep breath. “You know it’s not about winning or losing anymore, right? Not after Murray.”

“Of course,” Darryl confirmed.

“This is personal. This has to get punitive. I am so tired of hearing Leiweke talk about wanting the Stanley Cup in L.A. That is all I hear. Bringing a Cup to L.A. means a football team. Bringing a Cup to L.A. means higher revenues for our partners and other investments. Bringing a Cup to L.A. means we can charge higher ticket prices.”

“Fuck him!” Darryl yelled.

“Exactly!” Dean agreed. “Fuck. Him!”

“Did he give you grief for trying to hire me?”

“Hell no”, Dean responded.

“What did you tell him?”

Dean tried to maintain a straight face. “I told him you are a former left wing who loved to score goals and the fresh outlook we need to fix this offense!”

Sutter chuckled. “And what did he say?”

“He said, ‘it’s all in your hands, Dean. We trust you’” Dean mimicked.

Darryl laughed out loud. Dean joined him. “It’s all in your hands,” Darryl copied. “We trust you,” Dean repeated. The two men let loose for several seconds in revel.

“But seriously, Darryl, can you do it? Can you break them, break the players, this team, this franchise, until there is nothing left of them except…” Dean trailed off, struggling to find the words.

“Except what, Dean?”

“Except…help me out here, this city’s noise, glitz and glamor has numbed my mind.  What did we used to call the perfect player?”

“Mike Ricci, Peace Be Upon Him,” Darryl uttered reverently, hanging his head in silent prayer.

“YES!”  Dean exclaimed. “Nothing left of this team but an army of Mike Riccis, Peace Be Upon Him. This is why I need you, Darryl.  You are the meat to my potatoes, the hamburger to my hill, the sand to my paper. Can you do it?”

“Of course, Dean but it won’t be easy. You have acquired a lot of talent here.”

“I know, and you are right,” Dean shook his head. “I was…stupid. I should have just done what I am good at.”

“Don’t worry, pal. We can fix this,” Sutter persuaded his old friend. “A couple of trades where we sell skill for bulk, take the players who won’t cooperate and break their will, free agency, first round picks that are off the board like that beauty, Hickey, we’ll be set in no time…”

“You make it sound so easy,” Lombardi responded.

“It’s going to take some work,” Sutter assured, “but the reward is in the results, when all 23 guys are going to be on the same page, a shadow of their former selves, no skill, no creativity, nothing buuuuuut…”

Dean Lombardi’s eyes widened, he jumped from his chair and clapped his hands together three times. “DE-FENSE!” clap, clap, clap.

Darryl Sutter leapt from his chair, “DE-FENSE!” clap, clap, clap.

Together, they bounced up and down. “DE-FENSE!” clap, clap, clap. “DE-FENSE!” clap-clap-clap…

Lombardi’s phone’s rang. “Sir,” Laurie called.

“Fuck off, Laurie!” Lombardi yelled.

“Yes, sir.”

“DE-FENSE!” clap-clap-clap.