Rob Blake, who excelled as a Kings defenseman during his playing days, was named the club’s new assistant general manager Thursday morning. He replaces Ron Hextall, who left earlier in the week to become the assistant GM with the Philadelphia Flyers, his old club. Blake spent the last three seasons in the NHL’s player safety department.
“First off, it’s very difficult to lose a person like ‘Hexy,’ who was an integral part of this whole process,” Kings general manager Dean Lombardi said of losing Hextall to the Flyers during a video interview with radio analyst Daryl Evans. “You can’t say enough about how much he helped this franchise.
“That said, I think we’re very fortunate to have a person like Rob Blake available to us. I’m so impressed the way he dived into his job with the league, not only in the perspective in staying current with the game but the amount of work and diligence he was willing to put into this endeavor, which was very impressive.
“That’s the bottom line in the job he’s stepping into with us. There’s an incredible amount to learn. Certainly, being a player of his stature is a huge asset. But it’s still going to come down to how much work you put into it. What he did with the league, I’m really looking forward to seeing that kind of energy.”
Blake, 43, played 14 of his 20 NHL seasons with the Kings and recorded 777 points (240 goals, 537 assists) in 1,270 career games. He also played with the Colorado Avalanche and the San Jose Sharks. He was the Kings’ team captain for six seasons. He helped the Kings reach the Stanley Cup Final in 1993 and was a member of the Avalanche’s Cup championship team in 2001. He retired after the 2009-10 season.
Rob Blake, whose shot from the point was every bit as hard as his hip checks, did not make the Hockey Hall of Fame’s Class of 2013. But it would seem to be only a matter of time before the former Kings defenseman’s name is added. Blake certainly has the credentials, with a Stanley Cup victory with the Colorado Avalanche in 2001 and a Norris Trophy as the league’s top defenseman while with the Kings in 1998. Scott Niedermayer, Chris Chelios and Brandan Shanahan were elected to the Hall as the only players this year, and Fred Shero and Geraldine Heaney were picked in the builders category.
Defensemen Rob Blake, who played most of his career with the Kings, and Scott Niedermayer, who led the Ducks to their only Stanley Cup championship, are among the former players who might hear their names called when the Hockey Hall of Fame announces its class of 2013 on Tuesday.
The announcement is scheduled for noon (PDT).
Drafting 18-year-old prospects is an inexact science, particularly as the rounds go by and the names aren’t as familiar. But the Kings have had some success in drafting beyond the first and second rounds in their history. The Kings don’t have a first-round pick in Sunday’s draft, but they have one in the second round, one in the third and three in the fourth. The Kings’ top second-round picks were detailed in an earlier post. Here are some of the best selections they made in the third and fourth rounds over the years:
Add Team Canada executive to Rob Blake’s list of post-”retirement” duties.
On Thursday, the former Kings captain was named an assistant to general manager Dave Nonis for the Canadian entry in the IIHF World Championships, which will take place April 29-May 15 in Bratislava and Kosice, Slovakia.
Blake joined the NHL in January as an assistant to Colin Campbell, the league’s vice president of hockey operations. On Tuesday, Blake was one of four former players named to a committee tasked with studying “all the possible ways of creating a safer environment for the players and ultimately bringing their findings to the Board of Governors for approval,” according to NHL.com.
This will be the first management position for Blake, who captured an Olympic gold medal with Canada in 2002 and a World Championship gold medal in 1997. He was also named top defenseman at the 1998 Olympic Winter Games, where Canada finished fourth.
Blake, a King from 1990-2001 and from 2006-08, retired as a player in June of last year.
This season: 71 games, 9 goals, 22 assists, minus-19 rating
Positives: At times this season, Blake was the Kings’ best defenseman. A slow start, mostly caused by his recovery from offseason hip surgery, gave way to a period of strong hockey, which Blake was unable to maintain, in part, because of other nagging injuries. When healthy, Blake remains a strong physical presence on a team that lacks physical defensemen.
Negatives: Not uncommon for 38-year-old players, Blake is injury-prone and slowing down. He didn’t come close to giving the Kings $6-million worth, but that contract was the Kings’ fault, not his. Still plays well in spurts, but might no longer have the energy to maintain it for an entire season.
Looking ahead: Despite some uncertain moments during the season, on both sides, it seems as though Blake would like to return to the Kings and that the Kings would like to sign him to a short-term contract, far below the $6 million he made in each of the last two seasons. Blake still has some value, particularly as the Kings attempt to work in a new, young crop of defensemen.
Contract situation: Unrestricted free agent.