More will come shortly on how Luc Robitaille and Rob Blake will delegate duties, and how the Kings’ style of play could evolve with a new group of executives at the top of the hockey operations chain of command, but before we get there, here are the main bullet points of today’s media sessions, in which President and CEO, AEG and Alternate Governor, Kings Dan Beckerman, President, Alternate Governor Luc Robitaille and Vice President and General Manager Rob Blake spoke and were joined for one-on-one availability with captain Anze Kopitar and alternate captains Jeff Carter and Drew Doughty.
-As expected, ample respect was paid to Dean Lombardi and Darryl Sutter’s stewardship. “We are all grateful for what Dean and Darryl did for this organization, Beckerman said. “They built an incredible team, they built an incredible infrastructure.” Said Robitaille: “They taught us a lot about building a winning culture and constantly striving to be the best.” And Blake: “The success this organization has had, Dean and Darryl took it to new heights.”
-Don’t expect to see any concerted rebuilding process. “We believe this team has the core in place to compete for the Stanley Cup,” Robitaille said.
-Blake did address the players this morning. It was the first time he had addressed a group since he was a player. “The feeling you get when you do that is the exact same.”
-Blake said that finding a head coach is his chief priority. “There are other vacancies, obviously. You don’t want to be left looking around and everything. I think a priority here the next few weeks is for us to get that down, and then you move on. You get the draft, and you’ve got expansion and all these things. But I think for us, the coach is a very important part of that.”
-No decisions have been made on Associate Head Coach John Stevens or Assistant Coach Davis Payne at this time. “I do want to evaluate the staff that’s in place there right now,” Blake said. “…The defensive aspect of things, and where our team is ranked, that’s the staff that’s run that. They have that part figured out. Now, if they have creative ideas or things that will help get us to another spot there, then I need to listen to them probably first.”
-Vice President, Hockey Operations and Director of Player Personnel Mike Futa will continue to be counted on to play a key role in the organization. “Mike has been tremendous and we’re going to sit with him over the next couple days and there are vacant positions and I think at the end of the day I’m going to lean tremendously on him. His success that he’s had here with the draft and the Ontario League and what he’s done professionally, we’ll come with an agreement there shortly.”
-Blake alluded to keeping “the format that we operated,” so should the team choose to either hire or promote someone to Assistant General Manager, they’d likely assume the Ontario Reign GM roles that Blake previously held. “Hubie McDonagh’s down there and does a terrific job for us,” he said. “Like I said up there, I touched on it a little bit, there are structural things that we need to look at the next few weeks, and there are holes that need to be filled in that.” Blake hasn’t been principally involved in negotiating NHL contracts – those duties fell to Dean Lombardi and Senior Vice President/Hockey Operations and Legal Affairs Jeff Solomon – but will now be responsible, along with Solomon, in negotiating with players.
-Helene Elliott reports that Anze Kopitar will remain captain.
-Kopitar, who noted “there’s definitely going to be some soul-searching” over the summer, said that teams in the Western Conference “are getting smaller and quicker,” and that the team’s style of play, which highly effective in the playoffs, was difficult to pull off over 82-game regular seasons. “Well, we played a hard style of hockey, yeah for sure,” he said. “It was very physical. It was very intense. And if you think you can sustain that for 82 straight games, I’d say you’re crazy. And we all know that in the playoffs that works and you get the extra boost just because it is the playoffs but to have it for that 82-game stretch, it’s a bit of a push and that’s why we got in trouble sometimes. But you know what, I think, for the most part it worked. When we executed to a T, it worked and we were winning games.”