LOS ANGELES — A little more than one year ago, the Los Angeles Kings brought former superstar defenseman Rob Blake back into the fold, naming him as their assistant general manager on July 17, 2013, replacing Ron Hextall, who returned to the Philadelphia Flyers as their assistant general manager (he was soon elevated to the general manager’s position on May 7, 2014).
Upon hiring Blake, Kings President/General Manager Dean Lombardi indicated that, like anyone new to the job, Blake would be eased into his new position.
But almost 13 months have passed since Blake was brought on board. How have things gone so far in his new job?
During an exclusive interview that focused primarily on several of the Kings’ young prospects who played last season with their American Hockey League affiliate, the Manchester Monarchs, Blake shared a few quick thoughts about the job.
“I like the hockey part of it,” he said. “There’s a lot of administrative aspects that you have to deal with. I probably didn’t understand that as much from being a player, but as far as the reading of players and charting and graphing players, it’s not much different than what I did for twenty years as a player.”
“I understood every player I played against,” he added. “I knew their tendencies and different things. That’s kind of what we do in the back room here, so that part of the adjustment has been good.”
But the paperwork and other administrative duties can be rather daunting.
“The administrative part has been a learning experience—understanding all that,” said Blake. “But the staff Dean has put together has made it pretty easy. I can go to the pro guys (scouts), I can go to the amateur guys, I can go to the development guys, when I have issues or questions about what they do. They’re very open that way.”
Blake recalled Lombardi speaking of his long-term plans while he was still playing for the Kings, and related that to what he has observed in his new role.
“It’s funny,” Blake noted. “I was here eight years ago when Dean got here. I came back with the team and we weren’t good. I remember sitting in meetings with him at the time. He was telling me what he wanted to do and how he wanted to do it. I ended up going to different spots to finish my career. Then, I finally come back and get involved here again, I get to see that everything he said that he wanted is finally coming full circle.”
“It’s taken time,” Blake added. “He knew that it would. But [ownership has] allowed him to put those pieces in place and its obviously turned out pretty well. A lot of people are looking at how he’s doing it and how they can try to copy it. He relies on the [department] heads and allows them to do their jobs. His communication with them is really good.”
One of Blake’s biggest responsibilities is serving as the general manager of the Monarchs and he talked about one thing he is looking forward to, in terms of Kings prospects playing for the Monarchs, during his second season on the job.
“The interesting thing for me is to watch these guys this time around,” said Blake. “I’ve been able to watch them for a full year. They’ve had time to go home this summer. They’ve become a lot more comfortable at that level. To see how they’ve progressed and are ready for [training] camp will be interesting for me.”
How Do You Top That?
In a press release, Blake said, “It is an honor to be included with the former great LA King players who have their jersey’s retired. I have always felt L.A. was a special place to play and it was and is a tremendous privilege to put on an LA Kings jersey.”
Blake shared a bit more with Frozen Royalty.
“This is a time to reflect and look back at how you got there,” he said. “I definitely have good company to be up there with, that’s for sure. Dave [Taylor], Wayne [Gretzky] and Luc [Robitaille]. I got to play with a few of them.”
The announcement of his jersey retirement came on the heels of being named as the Kings’ assistant general manager, learning that he would be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in November 2014, and winning the Stanley Cup as an executive, all in his first 13 months on the job with the Kings.
That raised the question: How are you going to top that?
“I don’t know,” Blake said, with a laugh. “I’ve got to get back to work here and see if we can’t do something.”
“I’ve got to spread’em out a little bit,” Blake added, still laughing. “I don’t know if there’s too many more things to celebrate after this.”
At that point, yours truly joked, “It occurs to me that it might be all downhill from here.”
“Yeah, I’ve got to hold onto whatever I can,” Blake said, chuckling. “That’s already a pretty hard act to follow.”
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