Five years ago, Hall of Fame defenseman Rob Blake took over the LA Kings as General Manager following a rough three-year stretch that had seen the organization fall on hard times after winning Stanley Cups in 2012 and 2014. Although the Kings have only reached the playoffs once during Blake’s tenure, he has also served as steward to the team’s overall retooling. Now poised to turn the corner and looking like a team on the upswing once again, MayorsManor has learned via multiple sources that it will soon be announced Blake has received a multi-year contract extension – believed to be 3-5 years in length.
At the time of his hire in April 2017, the Kings had missed the playoffs two of the previous three seasons. While former GM Dean Lombardi and coach Darryl Sutter were relieved of their duties, there was a general plan of largely continuing to build upon the foundation they had built. Longtime Sutter understudy John Stevens was appointed head coach for the 2017-18 season. Not only did the team qualify for the playoffs with largely the same roster, captain Anze Kopitar produced a Hart Trophy nominated season and defenseman Drew Doughty was named as one of three finalists for the Norris Trophy. It appeared the Kings were back.
Not so fast, though. Hoping to squeeze another year or two out of the same group proved to be too much and things quickly fell apart the next season. Stevens was fired that November and MayorsManor reported in December 2018, the Kings were in full rebuild mode. Blake and team drafted a plan to spend roughly three years tearing it all down and reloading for another run.
Blake’s tenure since then – essentially over the past three seasons – has been anything but uneventful. Longtime fan favorites like Jeff Carter, Alec Martinez, and Kyle Clifford were dealt away in separate deals. Conversely, the team has stockpiled a treasure chest of riches when it comes to young players. Their prospect pool is universally rated among the top three of all the NHL and led by guys like Quinton Byfield, Alex Turcotte, Gabriel Vilardi, Brock Faber, and Brandt Clarke. The team has also seen the development of young players at the NHL level in recent years, including Alex Iafallo, Adrian Kempe, and Arthur Kaliyev.
Over the past two seasons, some of the team’s momentum may have been stalled due to various starts and stops throughout the world of hockey. As Blake pointed out on KOTP, many of the organization’s prospects played less than full seasons in 2019-20 and 2020-21. Those shortened campaigns mean fewer games played for both development and player evaluation — key aspects to evaluating what the teams has with their prospects and what holes will possibly need to be filled from outside.
Even so, players from each of Blake’s first three NHL Drafts as Kings GM are either now regular contributors in LA or have had stints during various call-ups. That list includes Mikey Anderson, Tobias Bjornfot, and Rasmus Kupari; with Jaret Anderson-Dolan knocking on the door to join them.
Intent on seeing his recreation of the LA Kings through to the end, Blake certainly sounded confident he’d be sticking around as GM beyond the end of his current contract when asked about his status recently on Kings Of The Podcast.
“Luc [Robitaille] and I have a real good relationship. We meet daily here. It goes back to the days when we played as teammates and we’ve been very upfront [with each other],” Blake said during his appearance. “Let’s make sure we’re going in the right direction; continue pushing on what we want to do, and what we want to accomplish. There’s lots of time left in the season to tackle [my contract]. We have enough other things going on here daily; we can take care of that later.”
When he was pointblank asked if there was any reason or scenario where he wouldn’t want to continue as Kings GM, Blake was emphatic in his answer.
“No,” he firmly stated. “I think we’re trending the right way – not only players and staff-wise, but all of it is coming together the way we want to unroll things. We want to perform better and we want to continue to push the pace. So, like I said, the relationship is good, and with the people surrounding [us here], it’s a real good situation.”
In related news, earlier Sunday afternoon it was announced that the Kings have hired former Montreal Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin in a consulting capacity. He’ll serve as Senior Advisor to Blake.
“Marc brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to our hockey operations staff and will be a valuable addition to our group,” said Blake. “We look forward to his contributions.”
With the Kings at a critical point in their rebuild, as key trades are still in front of them (something that Blake also discussed in detail during the aforementioned KOTP appearance), adding Bergevin and his extensive management experience to the upcoming conversations is similar to when Blake and the Kings brought Ron Hextall in to serve in a very similar role for the 2019 season.
One interesting aspect of this part of the news is that some in the Canadian media are reporting there is a three-year offer on the table for Bergevin to serve as the Kings AGM beginning next season.
— Arpon Basu (@ArponBasu) January 9, 2022
For what it’s worth, we’ve checked with multiple sources today and that doesn’t appear to be the case. We hear it is more of a short-term deal with Bergevin. Again, similar to how Hextall was used.
In this new role, Bergevin will be joining LA’s inner-circle, which already includes Blake, Robitaille, Nelson Emerson, Glen Murray, and Mark Yannetti.
Of course, things will play out in the months ahead and if Bergevin does end up as AGM, the narrative could change into something like ‘he grew into the role.’ However, at this time, we’re hearing the opposite.
This much is known, Blake will continue as LA Kings GM for the next several years. Look for an official announcement to come from the team at some point in the weeks ahead.
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