Happy Thursday, Insiders!
Sharing major takeaways from this morning’s availability with Kings General Manager Rob Blake, who gave his midseason remarks after Game 41. Will dive deeper into what Blake said tomorrow, but hitting the high-level stuff here as quickly as possible.
First things first, on the housekeeping front –
– Forward Blake Lizotte will be out through the end of the month with a lower-body injury, which he suffered in Carolina on Monday. Lizotte’s injury is not thought to be long-term, but consider him to be week-to-week at this time, and a true week-to-week, not he’ll be back in a week. Lizotte is unlikely to play for the Kings over their next seven games, which takes us into the NHL All-Star break, giving him another nine days to recover.
– Forward Viktor Arvidsson has resumed skating on his own, in a non-contact, red jersey. He’s been doing so now for the last couple weeks, while the Kings have been on the road. Arvidsson has missed the entire season to date due to back surgery, which took place back in October. A very welcomed sign for the Kings, who have missed Arvidsson both at 5-on-5 and on the power play. Arvidsson has goalscoring ability, certainly, but is also a terrific playmaker, especially in 5-on-4 situations. Great to see him progressing. As reported when he initially had the surgery, the Kings expected Arvidsson to return this season and this timetable is not particularly surprising.
“Arvidsson obviously has resumed skating, we’re hopeful within the next two to three weeks, maybe coming out of that break, he joins us for practice. There’s a protocol in place and he’s meeting all the standards right now. Lizotte, on the other hand, he’ll be out with a lower-body injury, we got confirmation yesterday, probably, I would say week-to-week and don’t expect him back in a week, it’s week-to-week. I would say after the break, we’ve got seven games to that break, coming out of there would be a better time to assess it.”
For a lot of the availability, much of the conversation centered around where the team is at right now, both in terms of the team and individual players. The Kings have lost nine of their last ten games, with a record of 1-5-4 in that stretch. It’s been the largest down-spell over the last three seasons, since the Kings shifted back into a playoff team. The overall numbers at the 41-game mark are fine, with the Kings on pace for another 100-point season. Much of that was banked, though, from a scorching hot start that had them amongst the league leaders, with recent play bringing them back to the field and into the thick of a playoff race.
Blake had the following note on the team’s current stretch of play –
“I think from that standpoint we’ve always relied on structure and system and defending and I would say the last little bit it’s gotten a little away from us and we have to get back to that as a staple of the game. Todd’s done a real good job of installing that over the years and we have to continue that part of it. On the offensive side, on the transition, it’s more of the execution. We went over some things today with Todd, of the Dallas and Detroit games, on this past trip. Outnumbered chances, where there’s 2-on-1’s, 3-on-2’s, really nice transition, generating and everything, but not getting the quality shots. So, the execution part, the finishing part has dipped in the last 10 games. So there’s two sides. You drop a little there and you drop on the defensive side, that is a structure of this team, then as a whole you’re down in those games. So, that’s been the focus. Yesterday was focused on just recovery, that was a long trip, it was a tough, difficult trip on the guys, some hard games. So, get the rest, obviously Todd had the design this morning without a practice. Get the rest, come tonight and put the focus on defending and execution on the offense.”
With regards to any types of changes or moves, related to players, coaches, ETC, Blake reinforced his commitment first and foremost to Todd McLellan. He spoke about the structure and systems in place and how McLellan has gotten the buy-in from the players in executing those systems. He’s now relying on the group to execute as designed.
“No, not at all,” Blake said. “Like I said, our philosophy here the past three, four years is on the structure and the system and the design and the buy-in of the players and he’s gotten that from them. I’m going to rely on the players and the leadership to get us out of that. No one came home from that trip happy about what goes on but their focus coming in today was regaining that, but is going to start by defending.”
As far as personnel goes, the Kings are pretty simply in a place without a ton of options with regards to movement come the trade deadline.
Blake pointed back to where the Kings started the season, which was a place where only carrying 19 skaters was the likelihood. Right now, the Kings do have ample space to make a move, but only because of the LTIR space created via injuries to Arvidsson and goaltender Pheonix Copley. With Arvidsson now skating, and the Kings eyeing him to play games down the stretch, that has to be taken into consideration.
“It’s a little different in the approach going into [the deadline], right now the speculation of Arvidsson plays big into this. I mean, you have to be able to put [him] back in the lineup and we’re excited about his progression and we don’t see anything that would stop that from happening, probably right around that time, maybe a week or two early if we can. That would be one of the benefits but then we’re back in that situation. We started with really limited roster and cap space, if everybody’s healthy, now I say that and Lizotte’s out, so I know there’s not a lot of flexibility, things will be fluid up until that point, but we envision Arvy being a big addition to us in that aspect, we miss him on our lineup. He’s a goalscorer with a lot of energy.
With regards to present UFA’s – Arvidsson being one of them – Blake added that there haven’t really been a ton of negotiations at this stage in the process. That includes defenseman Matt Roy, who is on the last year of his contract.
“I think our process with them is probably the best scenario is to let things play out and go from there. I don’t know how much success we’ve had internally trying to do negotiations during the season with any UFA over the past. So, you see more and more teams do it, you know that these players help us get to where we need to be.”
Blake added that the Kings did sign Trevor Moore during the season last year as a pending UFA, and that the Kings did so a few years back with Alex Iafallo, but that hasn’t always been the norm. Look no further than last offseason with Vladislav Gavrikov, a pending UFA, who signed early in the offseason, prior to July 1. The Kings have shown a willingness to get something done then, if there’s a fit that works for everyone, both player and team included.
“Negotiations are never easy, it doesn’t matter what time. For the most part, you don’t want to mess with things when in-season, at little as possible, at least that’s my understanding.”
Will have more from Blake tomorrow, with reports more on the status of individuals. He spoke on the status of Clarke and Spence, as well as Dubois, Kopitar, Moore, Byfield, Kaliyev, to name a few.
Gameday preview to follow closer to puck drop tonight, with the second Blake story coming tomorrow in the morning.