We will post live updates below from today’s LA Kings State of the Franchise meeting with Season Ticket Members (STM), including thoughts from General Manager Rob Blake, President Luc Robitaille, and others.
First up, Robitaille opened the event with some thoughts on the team’s “Development Strategy”…
— Reminds STM that LA’s plan was to move / trade some veteran players in 2018 and 2019, then integrate younger prospects / players into the system last season and this year.
— Sometimes when players go down to the AHL, it’s a good thing.
— Kempe has been really good the past three seasons, this has been a coming out party year. He’s only 25. This is a good reminder to be patient.
– We’ve talked about this being the year to add players. We added Arvidsson, Danault, and Edler. They were all difference makers.
— He mentions Sammy Helenius and Brandt Clarke and a few of the younger players who are developing nicely and they’re looking forward to seeing more of in the summer / next season.
— Regarding data, we look at everything; We’re looking at shot attempts created, zone entries, etc.
— Even when we started the season 1-5, the data said we were playing the right way. For example, we were creating scoring chances and doing things the right way.
— Blake references a slide Robitaille showed earlier that showed the Kings are Top 10 in nearly every defensive metric this season. He’s pleased with the team’s overall defensive performance, including the ongoing development of their younger players on the blueline. The key area the defense group really needs to improve this season is their ability to add to the team’s offensive output.
— Bjornfot is currently the only 20-year-old who has played at least 82 games in the NHL
— Robitaille says it’s getting harder and harder to schedule the Season Ticket Member extra / benefit events, even outside of all the covid protocols of the past two years. With the new CBA, there are more mandated days off for the players, especially following road trips. So, they’re looking at “another approach” — for example, a recent team survey showed that STM want more autographs. Nelson Emerson adds that the players miss the interactions too, especially the youngers players, who feed off the energy of fans.
— A fan asked if there is anything special to look forward to at the Trade Deadline next month. Blake spoke a lot about how the current players are slotted where they need to be (i.e. Kopitar, Danualt, and Byfield down the middle). “We’re going to continue putting players into the right spot leading into the deadline.”
— Blake says, “Right now, it’s all about taking steps forward. We’ll continue that at the Deadline, into the summer, and next season.”
— Emerson wants to talk about some of the non-AHL prospects. Brock Faber, “really knows how to defend. He defends through his skating, and that closes off lanes.” Brandt Clarke’s “feet are amazing. He can look at four different reads at the same time. That’s very difficult for a defenseman.”
— Emerson said he wants to talk about Harvard forward Alex Laferriere. He works, competes, and plays the game the right way. He’s the type of player who plays the system McLellan wants to play.
— Emerson on Helenius: He’s a 6-foot-7 center and he’s mean. It’s really difficult when the big guys are mean. He’s already signed and we’ll have him over here real soon.
— Robitaille says he’s a big fan of the purple and gold jerseys of the 70s. “I understand there is a passion for them” and we’ll try to break them out every once and a while.
— Blake again confirms that Edler is targeted to be back in the lineup by the end of March.
— Blake says they will have about 3-5M to play with at the deadline and/or in the summer (see more below).
— Blake talking about the importance of using the first three years of a player’s pro development, when they’re waiver exempt, to maximize a prospect’s development in the AHL.
— Emerson doubles down on the AHL comments, adding that Ontario is a lot of fun to watch this year because Kings prospects are gaining trust and confidence in their development.
— Blake almost jumps the glass to go after a fan who suggests that Dustin Brown should retire soon. (OK, fine, it wasn’t quite that dramatic. He did point to all the stuff that Brown brings to the team, though. Sharing several areas that go unnoticed by anybody not in the dressing room. He specifically talked about the mentoring he’s currently providing young kids like Byfield). Robitaille then reminds everybody to have respect for the player who was the first captain in franchise history to raise the Stanley Cup.
— Emerson said he doesn’t see fighting leaving the game anytime soon. It keeps things even out there. Players have sticks out there. “Some players through the years have used their stick the wrong way out there. That’s why it’s probably not going away anytime quick.” Robitaille said when he played it was the fourth liners and the sixth defenseman who policed things. Now, everybody needs to be able to play. So, combined with all the rule changes, that’s helped stem the tide on all the fighting somewhat.
— A fan says, “Rob Blake is doing a fantastic job building this team.” Huge round of applause. The fan talked about how the franchise giving away draft picks in the early years “for flat tires.” Robitaille asks, “Yeah, who did we give away for Ray Bourque?”
— Blake on changing course in December 2018: “I don’t think any of us really wanted to. You want to keep winning continuously. I’ve read, ‘You should have started the rebuild earlier.’ I get it. But, when you see those winners in the dressing room, you want to believe in them. Watch Quick, Doughty, and Brown. They were leading this team last night. There’s a reason they’re still here. We made the tough decision, though, and that’s behind us now.
— Year one of the arena remodel will include upgrades on the lower level. Then, they’ll work their way up the building. Robitaille says, he believes they’re spending more on the remodel than it cost to build the arena back in 1999.
— Fan asks about Martin Frk. Blake said (note: some quotes here are paraphrased, as this is all being posted in real-time), “He had a tough year last year, where he could have fought for a spot. This year, we had some younger players step up and fill those roles. He’s doing exactly what we asked of him. He’s scoring in the AHL and providing leadership to our younger players.” There were additional comments that Frk will remain in the AHL unless somebody becomes injured.
— Fan asked about Gabe Vilardi. Blake, “We see him playing for the Kings, eventually. … He needs to be involved in power plays and playing with pace. He’s been moved to wing and is adjusting nicely. There will be a situation where he gets back into the Kings lineup. For now, he’s doing what he needs to do and he’s over a point-per-game.”
NOTE: Blake had more to say about Vilardi and his entire situation on a recent Kings of The Podcast:
— The franchise has a surprise celebration for Jonathan Quick coming up in a few weeks. More details to come.
— One final note, these new workout shirts are available in the team store tonight:
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