National Hockey League clubs over the past several years have trended towards incorporating their alumni into their hockey operations ranks. This is often most visible in player development roles, and Los Angeles has banked heavily on the incubation offered by ex-Kings in Nelson Emerson, Glen Murray, Mike Donnelly and Sean O’Donnell.
Now, with the promotion of Luc Robitaille to President and Rob Blake to Vice President and General Manager, they’ll have a pair of alums whose jerseys hang in the Staples Center rafters and whose plaques hang in the Hockey Hall of Fame orchestrating the team’s executive operations.
“I’m not sure if it’s a trend, I think it’s about if you’re willing to work,” Robitaille said of the high-profile alumni assuming the highest roles in the team’s hockey operations department.
“And having a name and having had a great career, it’s one part, but being willing to work and keep working in the game that you love when you retire is another thing. All of us will tell you, we talked with Jarome Iginla today, and we told him, “Play as long as you can, ‘cause there’s nothing like it.”
Robitaille and Blake were teammates on Kings teams from late in the 1989-90 season through 1993-94, and once again from 1997-98 through most of the 2000-01 season. Now, they’ll share hockey operations roles where Blake will make the day-to-day decisions and Robitaille will provide more of an overarching vision for both hockey and business operations endeavors.
“I think my biggest role is to support Rob. We’re both about working as a team. I think that’s been our message with everyone in the office,” Robitaille said. “But it’s Rob’s team, it’s Rob’s decisions, and I’ll just be there to support him, and at the same time … we’ve got to keep going with what we’re doing for the organization on the business side. We can not let that go – it’s very, very important.”
Both Robitaille and Blake will be present in meetings during the team’s efforts to find a new head coach, but again, as Robitaille said, and as LAKI reported this morning, Blake will hold final say on hockey operations decisions.
“I’m there to help the vision and where we’re going as an organization, and when he wants to lean on me on something – if he wants to talk about scoring, I can help him, maybe – but he’s definitely the day-to-day guy. It’s his decisions,” Robitaille said.
This is a departure from the executive branch structure under Dean Lombardi, where the former Kings General Manager reported to both Owner Philip F. Anschutz and Dan Beckerman, President and CEO, AEG and Alternate Governor, Kings. Blake previously served as the team’s Assistant General Manager.
Now, while decisions will be made foremost by Blake, he called the process “a collective thing.”
“I’m fortunate I was able to play with Luc,” he said. “I understand his personality, he understands mine. With Dan Beckerman and Luc, they’re going to be in all the decisions. Is Luc going to be there every day and around the rink and that? Probably not – he’s got a lot of other stuff going on in that. But in any decisions and everything, Dan and Luc will be fully involved.”
Luc Robitaille, on transitioning from President of Business Operations to President:
It’s about team. It’s always about team. And when you work in the office, you know, there’s a lot that we learn as players and there’s a lot that you learn about team commitment and everybody has to get together. The way to run any great business, it’s always about the team. If you can kind of translate that to everyone that works with you, most of the time you’ll have good success.
Robitaille, on whether there will be more collaboration within hockey operations than before:
Yeah, probably. I mean, every one of us has their own styles. It doesn’t mean one works, one doesn’t work. I think our style is to work together, and we want everyone in the office to work together. Like Rob says, a guy like Mike Futa is very important to our organization, we all believe in Jeff Solomon, so we want to make sure we all work together as a staff, and then we’ll figure out what’s the best for the organization. At the end of the day, Rob will make the final decision and that’s going to be it, but we want to get there as a group.
Robitaille, on his role with Eisbären Berlin, in the Deutsche Eishockey Liga:
Kelly Cheeseman and I are working on it. We’re basically just on the board – we’re overseeing the board – these guys are doing the day-to-day work. That’s not going to change, probably. Kelly will probably take a few more meetings for the next several months, but once we’re establishing going, that’s very important to the AEG family that we have them, and we’re not going to change that.