The Los Angeles Kings are about three weeks away from the start of Training Camp. Kings President, Business Operations Luc Robitaille was in Manchester this past week for the team’s inaugural Monarchs 101 event where he sat down with Pro Development and Special Assignments Mike O’Connell and Monarchs Director of Hockey Operations Hubie McDonough to answer questions from Ticket Package Holders.
Robitaille has been to the city of Manchester numerous times for Monarchs events including the annual Ace Bailey Golf Classic and last September when he brought the Stanley Cup to the Queen City. He enjoys visiting Monarchs Country as it reminds him of home.
“I like coming here,” explained Robitaille. “I like this whole area. There is so much history around here. I was driving from Montreal (Tuesday night) and kind of looked around and it’s pretty neat. It feels a lot like the way I grew up. I grew up in Canada, Montreal; it’s got the same feel, the community. I like it a lot.”
As he spoke about the city and the Kings organization, he expressed the importance of player development and the role that Manchester plays in the success of the franchise.
“The development of the players that come from (Manchester) to help us win the Cup, it’s the reason why we won the Cup,” Robitaille said. “You look at Jordan Nolan and Dwight King, when they came up and, if it weren’t for them coming up, we probably wouldn’t have won the Cup. Obviously, Dustin Brown was the leader who learned to be a leader here in Manchester and who now leads our franchise.
“It’s everything for us. It’s imperative that we have the best development system. We take a lot of pride into it and now we’ve become one of the model franchises for what other teams are looking at when they’re saying we need to grow from within; we need to have a great system; we need to put them in the right city, the right environment and it needs to make sense. So we take a lot of pride into that, and the thing, even though we won the Cup, now we don’t want to stop; we want to keep going.”
The Kings named former defenseman Rob Blake as their new Assistant General Manager and the Monarchs General Manager following the departure of Ron Hextall who rejoined the Philadelphia Flyers in July. Blake played 14 of his 20 NHL seasons with the Kings and served as the team’s Captain from 1996-2001 and then again from 2007-2008. Robitaille has known Blake for more than 20 years and knows what he brings to the organization.
Robitaille explained, “I think, funny enough, Rob Blake and Ron Hextall have the same kind of personality and they both have a tremendous amount of respect from players, the way they played. They’re both a lot alike. From Rob Blake, the one thing that’s a little bit different is he started as a King and the Kings logo has always been a part of his life even though he played for other teams.
“What he’s going to bring is he’s obviously going to be great for our young defensemen but he was the kind of player that played every situation: penalty killing; he played the power play; he played the thirty minutes a game so coming in and working with the team (in Manchester), I think it’s going to be a huge advantage for a lot of those young guys. He’s really going to help them.”
When Hextall broke the news that he was heading back to Philadelphia, Blake was an obvious choice as his successor.
“We always looked at Rob Blake and he was kind of like the ultimate pro and that’s why he was the captain with the Kings and he was the captain with San Jose,” said Robitaille. “When San Jose got him, it was toward the end of this career and they still named him captain because he commands that kind of respect. I think he’s going to be great here to work with our young guys and he’s going to be great for the community too because what Rob Blake says, there’s no ifs or buts; there’s no gray in his life; everything is black or white which it’s a lot of fun to deal with a person like that.”
The addition of Blake coupled with the Monarchs ability to develop young talent into skilled NHL players and Stanley Cup Champions has created an excited and a buzz throughout the organization.
“There’s a great vibe,” explained Robitaille. “You look at some of the young guys that we have that played a few games for us last year, (Jake) Muzzin or Tyler Toffoli that came from here. Fans are all excited because we’ve kept all the guys that helped us win the Cup but then we have these good, young players coming up so there’s a lot of excitement coming this year. We feel we’re going to have a little bit more speed as a team and at the same time, this is like last year with the lockout, this is the first year that we have those guys that are coming in and being healthy and are ready to go so we have a good vibe right now going on.”
The Kings President/General Manager Dean Lombardi joined the organization in 2006 and brought the philosophy of developing from within. Los Angeles has done just that and won their first Stanley Cup in 2012. They know what it is like to win and they want to do it again.
“There’s a lot of belief that we’re one of the top five teams to contend for the Cup,” Robitaille said. “Any time you can say that, it brings a lot of excitement.”