Earlier today, LA Kings GM Rob Blake held a 30-minute zoom call with NHL media. We posted answers from the first part of that chat here. Below, is the second set of questions and replies…
[Note: some answers have been slightly edited for brevity and/or clarification]
On if the Ontario Reign will play out of Staples Center this season:
No, I think the plan is to have them play out of Toyota Sports Performance Center [in El Segundo].
On if he anticipates any roster additions before the season starts on January 13:
I think we’re pretty much set. We have 36 skaters in our camp now. We’ll make an adjustment when Andres has cleared protocol and we can bring him in. Plus, when you look at the total number of contracts and where we are, I think we’re pretty well set for now.
On the changes made to training camp this year:
I think everybody, at this time, is pretty much in the same boat. When they come back, we get a couple extra days here, where you get a coach on the ice and get a little structure. The two-week camp with no exhibition games is much different for a lot of players. They’re never usually in that situation, so you’re going to get through that very quick and then you’re going to be thrown right into game situations. Whether it’s camp, how we’re playing all of our games in the division, our travel — everything is different for the players and they’re going to have to adjust on the fly. It will come fast and these next two weeks are going to go quick and then you’ll be right into real games.
On the NHL having to realign the divisions and change the format of the season schedule, where you’re playing exclusively interdivisional games:
No doubt, that’s different. We’re going to see a lot of these teams over and over. I think we start with a four-game trip, then a six-game trip, then we have another four-game trip, and then it’s two-game trips from there. But the difference is, you’re in the city for those two games, which rarely ever happened before. That part will be different for all the teams. Like we told the guys today – ‘Listen, everything is going to be a little bit off and we don’t really control those those two situations. Whatever they throw at you, be prepared for it.’ I think the players are looking at the different scheduling here and seeing spending the two or three days at a time in a certain city, I think they’re going to enjoy that part of the schedule.
On the goalie situation, and how guys will be used:
That’s probably a question better suited for Todd. Obviously, we know who our two goalies will be here, plus this year we have the mandate to carry three goalies (including the taxi squad) – just in case of different situations on the road. The schedule isn’t really that condensed. It’s not much different than what we’re used to. So, again, Todd will balance the goaltender schedule as we go forward.
On if guys like Car Grundstrom and Sammy Fagemo, who were playing overseas, maybe have a leg up on others coming into camp:
They’re coming over after having had some structure, they’ve had competition in their games. Now, probably within the last two or three weeks, a lot of these players have made their way over after having been off for an extended period of time. But it does come back a little quicker because they haven’t had the extended months off. We have a few players that had the availability to get that structure in those competitive games, which should help them as a camp goes on.
On Rasmus Kupari:
He’s been cleared. Players completed their medicals and physicals here the last couple days and he was cleared. He was probably cleared before that, but you know, officially cleared. Tyler Madden has been officially cleared after surgery on his finger from his injury in Germany. This extended time off helped Rasmus — he had that injury almost 12 months ago at the last World Juniors. And Jeff Carter is fine too. He had that surgery early on in the pause. There was a setback here, but he’s fully cleared and ready to go.
On only getting three extra days of camp, after hearing it might be two extra weeks:
We were applying and trying to get an extra week, similar to what other teams had before the NHL Return to Play last summer. Obviously, with the full understanding that it was a fluid situation with COVID. As time went on, we knew that that was going to be shortened by the end. We’ll take what we can get.
On if he expects the Kings to make the playoffs this season:
Yeah, that’s what we expect to do. We talked about it today. This is a results oriented business. To get these results, results are wins. You want to keep building on that. You need the foundation in place and then you need the process that the players trust and buy into. I think we developed that last year. Now we need to take that another step forward. But that is results. You need wins to get those results.
On if the plan is to keep guys like Byfield, Kaliyev, and Turcotte under seven NHL games played, so as to not burn a year off of their Entry Level Contracts:
You’re right, that seven game limit exists this year because of the prorated maximum (which is usually 10 games). We’re conscious of that every year. I think you want to make sure when the players come up — and listen, we’re talking about really young players — they have to be 100 percent ready to step in and help your team win. So the process leading up to it, that all comes into play and we’ll take it as we go. We’ll get a look at some of these guys early, we hope. We have situations where we can carry them on the taxi squad and maybe get then a game here and there. Again, they have to be 100 percent ready and we have to be confident that by playing them the whole year it’s going to help them develop.
On the plan for Kale Clague:
I think Kale put himself in that position last year, getting into a couple games with us during the season. And his ability to play both sides, and a little different style, in that he’s a skate-in defender and he wants to move the puck in. Yes, we want to get him NHL games and we want to get a good look at him, get a good read where he would fit in on the roster.
On the plan for Lias Andersson:
It will be interesting to see him live, over here in our situation. We’ve had a lot of video on him, and with our European scouting staff led by Christian Ruuttu, we have a real good background on him. The competitiveness and skill level, to be drafted so high – it will be nice to see him compete again against a lot of guys that we have in this age group. I would say among the 24-and-under players, there’s a competitive spirit between them. They’re all jockeying for positions.
More on integrating the younger players and no longer dealing with as much uncertainly near the Trade Deadline:
We’re gonna start putting in some of these players, you know, the competitiveness of who will try to earn spots. Like I said, this is a results oriented business, we’re trying to get wins and we’re pushing this team to get better and better. That’s been communicated with the five core veterans for a number of months. There is a little more certainty with this team when you approach the Trade Deadline.
On expectations for Drew Doughty this season:
We expect him to be the same Drew – be a leader on this team and be a real good player. I think we’re gonna surround him with some better defensemen. First and foremost, I think Olli Maatta is going to help there. You saw Mikey Anderson. We mentioned Kale Clague. Plus, Kurtis MacDermid, and we saw the strides that Matt Roy and Sean Walker took. So now he has a collective six or seven defensemen that puts a different level for him to bring his competitive nature to — which he usually shines all the time, and that’s probably his number one asset, how hard he competes. The more we can surround him with better players throughout this lineup, it gives that positive reinforcement that we’re gonna keep moving forward instead of taking a step back at the deadline.
On the plans for the taxi squad, will the Kings carry a full compliment of six players:
You have to have four with you at all times and then there is the availability of six. I think it’ll be a little bit of a fluid situation. Again, it’s hard to give exact numbers until we see what the AHL schedule and training camp will look like. But the planning we’ve done and the different mock-ups we did with Todd, there were always around five or six on that taxi squad. They would travel, they’ll participate with 28-29 skaters on the ice for practice throughout too. It will be a little different handling of players than what we’ve seen in the past.
On the loss of exhibition games and how that will impact the ability of younger players to make the NHL lineup:
I think the exhibitions, especially when you’re getting six-plus games, where you’re getting real good looks at player – unfortunately, the younger players aren’t going to have that situation. Todd remarked on that today to the group, about the first three days of this camp having three days of inner-squad games and that’s your only scrimmage – it’s not as controlled with referees and that, just can’t have that availability right now. So a little different process there, but I do think you still have two weeks to compete every day in practice and a lot of Todd’s practices will be a controlled scrimmage or controlled breakout, where you’ll see different situations that may arise in an exhibition. Again, a little different camp than we’re used to.
On this team’s ability to score goals:
I think it’s about finding guys to score on our top two lines. Our depth scoring might have been ok down the stretch last year. On the overall ability to score, when I say we had a process and a system – you started to see the players buy-in, and the trust in that system, as last year’s season went on. That is going to be reinforced now, then you start putting some players that might be capable of scoring more if they’re in the right situations into that system. That is where we feel we are going to generate more offense or more goals.
On his confidence level that with the current protocols in place, the NHL will be able to complete the 2020-21 season:
I sure hope so. The NHL has been real diligent, along with the PA, at putting a very tight protocol in place – trying to keep the players as safe as possible. The buy-in from the various staffs — the medical staff and all the other staffs — has been tremendous. The buy-in from the players, the testing daily, the rapid testing, what you do in your off time, the travel protocol, everything has been put into place to make it as safe as possible. We explained our plan to the players, ‘You have to do this.’ We did the opening meeting today, and we had to move it to an empty rink. We have a pond here, the smaller ice surface, it was covered over and then the chairs were six or eight feet apart, everybody was wearing masks, etc. Everybody does their part to chip in, to keep everybody as safe as possible. Moving forward, can we do it? We’re sure hopeful we can, knock on wood. We’ve done a pretty good job these last two months and we are going to continue. We’re going to hold people accountable to make sure they’re doing the right things.
Video of the entire call was provided later by the team:
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