They see me rollin'. They hatin'.
- Jul 28, 2004
Kings GM Rob Blake met with the gathered media on Monday afternoon at the Kings training facility in El Segundo, where he discussed the coaching change, as well as several player-specific questions.
The full presser went about 30 minutes, so for ease of consumption we have broken the comments into two separate articles.
Part I of Blake’s quotes can be found here, where he largely talks about the decision to move on from Todd McLellan and promote Jim Hiller.
Now, we move on to the second half…
Blake on if he would have made the same roster moves in hindsight, like acquiring PL Dubois:
Yes. This is a team that we built to make the playoffs. Now, individually, I said that there are numerous players here — and I’m going to break down from 24 games to the last 24 games that have not been up to their potential; [Dubois] included, but the team overall needs to be better too.
On if trading a player of consequence, one with term left, would be an option if Hiller can’t turn the ship around:
Those are always options. I don’t think they’re ever not on the table, in any situation. But we believe that this group, when it was assembled, was a playoff caliber team. We’re still in a playoffs today. Had a good run early, that definitely slipped over the last 24 [games].
On how much cap / roster flexibility he’ll have once Viktor Arvidsson returns:
It’s kind of a two-part answer. Right now, we have flexibility because we have LTIR space. We have a couple players, in Arvidsson, and possibly Lizotte headed in that direction. Arvidsson is getting close. He’s been skating here the last little while. He’ll probably join our team here for our practice on Thursday. It would be purely speculation, but if everybody’s healthy, we don’t have a lot of space. We would be able to carry one extra player, just like we started the season.
On if the rotation of Brandt Clarke and Jordan Spence was more of a McLellan decision:
We made that as a group, but we felt it was time to get Brandt games.
On if he talked to the leadership group about the decision and/or if any players have reached out since:
Not in general about the coach specific. But I met with every player, different groups of players, over the course of probably the last two months.
On what he’s seen from the small sample size of Clarke and Alex Turcotte in the NHL recently, and has it been enough to have him change course in advance of next month’s NHL Trade Deadline:
I don’t know about [changing] direction. We’ve always had the direction of those guys will help us. It’s nice to see them get games. I think Brandt established himself early on that, but Alex has had a good year and he’s come up and played well [in] the games that we needed him here.
On Clarke’s fight on Saturday night:
Well, it tells you that he does have that ability. If you watched the game, he kind of initiated it, so good for him.
On how losing all of those one-goal games affected the team’s confidence in recent weeks:
A lot. Very much. Confidence — if I could describe it, I wish I could. But it’s the same players we had here 24 games in, when we were doing things really well, playing hard. A word that has been used lately is a ‘disconnect,’ like our team has played disconnected. I don’t think the last little while here we were going with the same type of connection we had early in the season.
On if it’s difficult to focus on the fact that the Kings are still a playoff team, but not close to playing like a playoff team:
Yeah, that’s a fair assessment. Yes, today we are a playoff team with, what, 15 losses? [ed. note: he looked down at his notes] Yes, 23-15-10.
On his level of worry regarding the team’s goaltending:
We need — again, individuals and the team; that’s numerous individuals and that’s positions from the defense to forwards and goaltenders. We need to be better.
On more specifics on what he wants to see improve; i.e. the power play, the penalty kill, etc.:
Penalty kill, no. Penalty killing right now is first [across the league], power play is 15th; or right around that area. It’s been that way all year. Our power play took a jump last year, but it isn’t at the level we want. Offensively, yes, we have to be better. Defensively, have to be better. After 24 games, we had scored the most goals in the league. Next 24, we were 32nd. It’s a huge drop. There’s a conversion issue that factors in there, probably. I forget the amount of goals on the expected chart; over a 24 game period, it was way up. Then, our defensive game started to slide too. So, yeah, we need improvements in all those areas. The penalty kill has been the one main consistent, right from day one.
On if there’s been any change in his plans to ‘wait and see’ until after the season before negotiating a new contract with Matt Roy:
Wins and losses will dictate, I stated that earlier. And that will stay the direction of this team.
On what were some of key topics he and Hiller discussed last week, besides the ‘improve the offense, defense, and goaltending’ mantra:
Well, those are the obvious ones. We did go over player-by-player; the desires that we have for these players. A lot of players are established and they have backgrounds on how they play. Some of our younger players may not. You always hope for progress there, but we have a good read on what our players are [and] our desires from their expectations. I’ve covered that with Jim, in that we have to get them back to that level.
On the speculation that Arthur Kaliyev has asked for a trade out of Los Angeles:
Well, it hasn’t went well for him this year, being in and out of the line up and different things. We had higher, I guess a higher understanding of where he would be at, at this time of the season. But it has not worked that way. [reporter follow-up: Is Kaliyev unhappy here?] I don’t think anyone is happy when they’re not playing.
On if he has any concerns about the cohesion in the locker room:
I’ve been fine with it.
On his expectations for Dubois going forward:
Well, we want him to help our team win. Help this team win, help it be harder to play against, help the offense and help the defense.
On if Dubois will be a center or wing for the remainder of 2023-24:
Center. But, whatever, right? I say center now, but we could have injuries right away or different things, that may change that around. But, yeah, center.
On expectations for Byfield, will he continue to rotate between center and wing:
Possibly. We drafted him as a center. He’s been very productive here of late on the wing. I think once Arvidsson is back in our lineup, it does shift a little bit of balance of the top wingers in different positions and that. Byfield is an option at center, whether it’s now or moving forward; he’s played those positions.
On Arvidsson’s expected timeline for a return to game action:
Hopefully, during the road trip. I think he will participate in practice starting Thursday, when we return. So, it will be a matter of getting up to speed. Right now, everything has looked and progressed the way we had hoped.
On what in Byfield’s development has been so encouraging:
I think production for sure, number one. But just the ability to keep plays alive using his speed and his length. His ability to play with good players. Even like I said the last time we met here, he added a power play to that resume. So, the overall game has taken a big step. The games he was not with us on the road trip, it was a big hole there for us.
On if there was pressure on him from above to make the coaching change:
No. I am responsible for hiring him and letting him go. [The one-year extension] was also my responsibility.
Part I of Blake’s comments can be found here: