Kings won't buy out Pierre-Luc Dubois, but GM Rob Blake is vague on other plans

For all those disappointed with the Kings’ third straight exit from the NHL playoffs in the first round, Rob Blake, the team’s general manager, has a message: He feels your pain.

“Just a very difficult end to the season,” Blake said Monday in his first public comments since the Kings were eliminated from the postseason by the Edmonton Oilers last Wednesday. “A lot of disappointment, a lot of frustration, a lot of anger. I don’t think we performed at nearly the level we needed to to have success in the playoffs.”

As for what he intends to do about that, check back this summer. Because while Blake’s news conference was long on frustration and disappointment, it was short on the specific steps he plans to take to fix things.

Which isn’t to say he said nothing. He did say the team had no intention of buying out the last seven years of center Pierre-Luc Dubois’ $68-million contract. He also said the fate of interim coach Jim Hiller remained undetermined and that the long-term solution at goaltender “probably isn’t in place in this team right now.”

And though Blake has a strong core to build around — forwards Anze Kopitar, Kevin Fiala, Adrian Kempe, Phillip Danault and Trevor Moore along with defensemen Drew Doughty and Mikey Anderson, who are all under contract for at least two more seasons — the Kings have seven players set to become unrestricted free agents, among them defenseman Matt Roy, forward Trevor Lewis and goaltenders Cam Talbot and David Rittich.

“We still believe this group has made progress in a lot of different areas,” Blake said. “We have to find a way to get that to translate into the playoffs.”

How much time Blake, 54, a Hall of Fame defenseman whose No. 4 jerseys hangs from the rafters at Arena, has to make that happen is uncertain. He is entering the last season on his contract as general manager, having assumed the position in 2017, then signing a three-year extension as that deal was expiring. And while the Kings have made the playoffs four times during Blake’s tenure, they have not advanced beyond the first round.

It’s perhaps understandable that Blake has more questions than answers at this point since the Kings were expecting to be preparing for a second-round series with the Vancouver Canucks this week. Instead, they’re preparing for next season.

Blake said he planned to spend much of the next few weeks talking with players and staff, including Hiller, who was tasked with getting the team to the playoffs when he replaced Todd McLellan in early February. He did that, but whether that was enough for him to earn him the job full time, neither the general manager nor team president Luc Robitaille would say.

“Luc and I, some of the hockey staff, will meet with him and just go over the exact changes that he would feel would go into place before we get a decision,” said Blake, who declined to say how long that process would take.

One issue Blake conceded was certain to come up in those meetings with Hiller was the fate of the team’s 1-3-1 neutral-zone trap. The Kings have had success with that system, which uses three players to clog up the neutral zone and make it difficult for opponents to enter the offensive zone in control. But some players have complained the style of play has become too stale and predictable.

“We have to have a deep discussion on that for sure,” Blake said.

“When we talk a little bit about the systematic changes and different things that may be incorporated, we have to understand why the game didn’t translate into the playoffs. The team has had success, has gotten to playoffs. But by no means is that good enough.”

Regarding Dubois who, not counting the COVID-interrupted 2020-21 season, had career lows for goals (16) and assists (24) in his first season with the Kings, Blake said the solution lies with the team, not the player.

“We need to make him better,” Blake said. “He’s had a consistent performance over his career and deviated from that this year. So it’s up to us as a staff — coaches and management — to help him become more productive to us.”

As for the goaltender situation, the Kings have only one goalie (Aaron Dell, a 35-year-old backup with the Ontario Reign) with any NHL experience throughout the organization. Blake, however, is high on 23-year-old Erik Portillo, who has played well for the Reign, the Kings’ AHL affiliate.

“We don’t have as a long-term solution other than we have a young player that has played very well in Ontario,” he said. “It takes time for that position.”

Source link

About The Author

Scroll to Top