Michael Futa, now in his seventh full season with the Los Angeles Kings, was promoted last week to become the club’s Vice President of Hockey Operations and Director of Player Personnel after having served as a Director of Amateur Scouting.
The new titles will allow Futa to take on additional roles while retaining some of his responsibilities with amateur scouting. The promotion was expedited as his name continued to be referenced in hockey circles as a candidate for openings in upper management positions, including those at general manager.
“It was never my intention to leave the Kings, but you want to continue to grow,” said Futa, who interviewed for the Buffalo Sabres’ previously open General Manager position that ultimately went to Tim Murray.
“Obviously, right out of the gate, you’re very excited about it…and then, we’re in the middle of the season, it’s not really a real fair time for the LA Kings, and when you’re a big part of running their draft, and a team’s talking about pulling you out of the ship in the middle of the season, it’s difficult,” Futa said of Buffalo’s advances.
“I ended up going through the process. I think it went exceptionally well. I know from the feedback – I was getting a lot of feedback and the feeling about getting back to meet with Pat [LaFontaine] again about a second interview and stuff like that. It went to Tim, but for me it was an incredible learning experience. I was thrilled that Dean gave me the opportunity to go through it, and it’s kind of like, ‘OK.’ You get back and get to work.”
He did, and as the season continued, so did the inquiries by other NHL teams.
“There were a couple other calls made along the same lines,” Futa said.
This wasn’t the first time his services were considered.
“A couple years ago, I know a team, because of my title, had talked about the assistant general manager’s job, and it clearly wasn’t the time,” Futa said. “We were still building, and Dean made it quite clear about that.”
But with the club’s ability to draft, develop and incorporate players onto a team that tonight will venture to make its third straight Western Conference Final appearance, the frequency in those types of phone calls grew.
He had previously spoken informally with Lombardi about a position that served as a liaison between upper management and the team’s professional and amateur scouting staffs, and while he was in Finland for the Under-18 Championships last month, and as interest continued to grow in his management acumen, the decision to enhance his roles with the team was expedited.
“‘I’ve always talked to you about this other position,’” Futa said, interpreting the original idea Lombardi had presented him with. “He goes, ‘Maybe the timing is now that we move ahead on it.’ He spoke to Blakey about it, he spoke to me about the role, and then it was a matter of figuring it out time-wise.”
Futa acknowledged that he won’t “lose anything” in regards to his amateur responsibilities and noted that he’ll keep his relationship with Director of Amateur Scouting Mark Yannetti “as strong as ever.”
“We’re such a tight knit group. That’s the one thing Dean said – [we had] a lot of success on the whole, but we did a pretty good job in the Ontario area, and he wasn’t going to let that slide, and I’m going to continue to work with Mark to spearhead the amateur staff.”
He’ll add on more professional duties and will spend more time in Los Angeles (he currently resides in the Toronto area) and will spend more time working with Assistant General Manager Rob Blake.
“I think now, with these new presidents roles and presidents titles, there’s a lot of time for guys that have been in the field and in the scouting industry and have had success in management and with the importance of drafting, and I think there are a lot of teams out there that no question that are thrilled with the history of Dean Lombardi and hiring the people that he does and his success in the draft and development that people want to know what it’s all about, and if they can get one of his disciples, so to speak, it’s a feather in their cap,” Futa said. “Anyways, it was exciting.”