Rob Blake on How and Why John Stevens Was Promoted

Following today’s LA Kings press conference to announce John Stevens as the team’s new head coach, General Manager Rob Blake shared a plethora of additional insight into how and why the promotion occurred:

Blake on finding a head coach right away:

“Well, I think I’ve experienced it first hand, which goes a long way. Also, the experience of being a head coach at a certain time in his career in the NHL. And what he’s been able to learn and accomplish. Obviously, if you look at the defensive end of things, John (Stevens) had a lot of control and a lot of say in that over the years, and it’s been one of the priorities of this team, so he executes those game plans once he draws them up.”

On if hiring from within counters the idea of needing to find a way to spark the Kings’ offense:

“The offensive thing – it’s a big difference. Kopitar and Toffoli were off this year. There’s easily, I don’t know how many goals you establish there if they were playing the way they should, the presence of Jon Quick in the room, and an overall thing. One of the things I did when I sat down with John was we talked about the offensive game. He touched just briefly on it, a little bit of the analytics and things that have come into our game, and you need to look at all that, but where are our shots in the offensive zone coming from, how are we generating shots off the rush – different things like that, we’ve looked at. We’ve been at the bottom of the league in that statistically throughout the last season here. So, there has to be an emphasis and a detail on the change in that aspect. Defensively though, like he said, I think it starts there. You go, you get the puck back, and there will be things through the neutral zone and offensive zone that they can stress more in detail to lead to the offensive part. We were comfortable what we came up with.”

On who came up with the idea to generate more through the neutral zone:

“I think near the end of the season, we started looking at philosophies on the way the game is played. You take that in steps, whether you take it from the d-zone, you take the neutral zone, the offensive zone, then you start adding the analytics to what you think you’re seeing, and you’re either going to be supported or it’ll going to go against it. I think it supported a lot – we were at the bottom of controlled entries, goals off controlled entries, we were near the bottom at getting the puck to the slot, whether you were skating it or passing it. So, it was a lot of things that, the way goals were being scored now, that we weren’t having success in. When we talk about a review at the end of the year, that comes into the play. Then we sit and see what the structure, the system, the detail that will be influenced to correct that. Whether we’re going to be at the top of the league or not, I can’t say that, but you don’t want to be at the bottom in those categories.”

On if those system changes are hard to change mid-season:

“Yep. It is, just because you don’t have the detail in the practice, in that your practice times are short. I think it’s an overall emphasis. Some organizations I’ve been involved in the past were right from day one stressed different styles through the neutral zone, offensive zone. But again, I think the footprint they’ve established and built and the structure here defensively, you can’t sway from. There’s other things we’ll look at going forward though.”

On what other things will change moving forward:

“Personnel plays a big part, obviously. Structure, style, personnel, they all play a part. I think with some of the younger players – you got to see a Jonny Brodzinski near the end of the season, (who) might not have had the success scoring goals, (but) he went back down to (the) American League, scored three or four goals down there. You will see pieces that are brought in there that will adjust the personnel.”

On if we will see a different kind of LA Kings player going forward:

“Well, you’ll see a different kind because it won’t be the same kind as we’ve had in the past. The core that they had won with has changed. There’s a younger core coming. I think John (Stevens) touched on it – some of the guys that have been here a couple years have to now push to the core – the Pearson’s, the Toffoli’s, Muzzin’s, Martinez in that group. And they’ll push the core guys in the Doughty and the Kopitars to be better, and then we gotta incorporate young players.”

On if they need to get away from the ‘heavy’ game the team has become known for:

“To a point. The philosophy that the team has been built on the defensive side, like I’ve said, over and over, will stay in tact. Brodzinski is a little different player than Dwight King. Adrian Kempe is a different player than Jarret Stoll. In that aspect, yes, there are different changes. You have to be able to adapt or adjust to the players that you have available.”

On if the current team plays to form, are they a playoff team:

“Yes. I think so. Kopitar, Toffoli, and Quick. Just the three players I can say right there off the top of my head. Muzzin too. I don’t think he had as strong of a year as he had in the past. If they played to form, it would have been a playoff team.”

On if the players having some comfort level with John Stevens makes the transition easier:

“It’s very difficult to win, and he has a group of players that he has won with, and he trusts. I think that communication that they’ve established over the years definitely helps going forward. Understanding our believes in development, which we aren’t getting away from, and some of the things that we want to go forward with, John has seen it first-hand, and he also believes in it. That part of it is an easier transition than probably having someone different.”

On how the dynamics change in the locker room as Stevens adjusts from being an assistant coach to head coach:

“In our meetings leading up to this, he talked big on relationships. There is a different level of relationship between a head coach and an assistant coach obviously. I think John being in a head position and understanding fully – it’s funny. When he was talking there, talking about Hitchcock, Murray, and Sutter – those are three pretty good guys to learn under, and allow your own personality to come up from that.”

On how involved the leadership group of the team was in deciding the coaching decision:

“I would say our leadership group – Carter, Doughty, Quick, and Kopitar. I put Quick in there even though he doesn’t have a letter on his jersey. He’s one of the ultimate leaders in there. I consulted with them. I let them know kind of where I was headed and my thoughts going forward in the coaching position, and their number one feedback was about the honesty. They said he’s tremendous at telling us – he doesn’t hide things, doesn’t sugar coat it, but is the honest truth, and they were veryt comfortable with things going forward.”

On if Stevens being a ‘relationship guy’ was a big part in him landing the job:

“I think that’s an important part of it. It’s the relationships where you get to know the person on a different level other than the x’s and o’s is kind of what John was hinting around about. He’s brought that up about three or four times in meetings. Point blank, I’ll ask him what’s your philosophy on certain things, and we’ll start talking about it, not that we’re talking about what accomplished or what occurred here, I just wanted to see what philosophies he had and a lot of it revolves around relationships with the players, and understanding them at a different level other than what they do on the ice.”

On the coaching search beginning and ending with Stevens, why was that:

“I was comfortable from day one with John. I needed to understand a little bit more of his philosophy – aspects of the game that I have not seen, since his job in total was controlling the defense and defensive side of it. Once I understood that, we talked about the review of the season; there’s a lot that goes into how you score goals. Once you break it down and [we] found out the categories that we were lacking in, I wanted to make sure the philosophy and structure and detail he wants to incorporate to the team [would] lead to helping increase that.”

On if there is a timeline established for when assistant coaches will be hired:

“Not really, it’s not a rush. I haven’t really talked in-depth with John on the structure of his staff and what he wants in there. We haven’t really been together long enough the last couple of weeks, other than our own meetings together. We’ll get into that; I don’t expect anything real soon by any means.”

PART TWO NOW POSTED HERE —-> Blake on What’s Ahead for Kopitar, Gaborik, Lombardi, Iginla

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