Former Los Angeles Kings defenseman Rob Blake is returning to the organization to become the right-hand man for general manager Dean Lombardi.
Blake was named the Kings' new assistant general manager Thursday, replacing Ron Hextall, who left the organization after seven years to assume the same position with the Philadelphia Flyers.
Blake, who lives in Manhattan Beach, Calif., had been working as a manager in the National Hockey League's Player Safety Department for the past two-and-a-half years. In that capacity, he worked closely with director of player safety Brendan Shanahan.
"I was fortunate to be working with Brendan Shanahan in player safety and when the position opened up with the Kings, I heard from Dean Lombardi and had a couple of meetings with him the last few days," Blake said during a conference call. "I just thought the opportunity to get back with the team, and knowing my history with the Kings, it would be a great opportunity. Things moved forward rather quickly."
It will be Blake's first job as an executive in an NHL team's front office. Included in his job description is serving as general manager of the Manchester Monarchs, the Kings' American Hockey League affiliate. Lombardi also said that Blake would work closely with director of player development Nelson Emerson. Blake said the scouting side of the game will be a relatively new phase in his career.
"The management job entails so many facets, but the bottom line is we're still evaluating players so managing Manchester and getting a handle on how things are run there will be important for him," Lombardi said. "When you talk to guys who played the game for 20 years, they sometimes think they have all the answers, but I really liked the way Rob asked a lot of questions, and not questions about whether he wanted the job but if he got the job ??? he had a great mindset."
Blake spent the first 12 seasons of his playing career with the Kings before he was traded to the Colorado Avalanche in February 2001. He won the Stanley Cup with the Avalanche that season, and spent the next four seasons in Denver before returning to L.A. for two seasons, from 2006-08. Blake played the last two seasons of his career with the San Jose Sharks and retired following the 2009-10 season.
He compiled 777 points in 1,270 games and won the Norris Trophy in 1998.
"I think I've always wanted to be involved in management sometime down the road," Blake said. "I was never really sure in what capacity, and right to when I retired, the opportunity to work for the NHL with Brendan and [Senior Executive Vice President of Hockey Operations] Colin Campbell came up really quick and was a great transition to start understanding all the positions in management. In the back of my mind I always hoped to get a spot there with the team."
Lombardi said the fact Blake spent a couple years in a management position with the League and was able to learn that side of the game played a big part in the decision to hire Blake.
"Working for the League, clearly you are very much abreast of hockey sitting there and watching three games at once," Lombardi said. "Sometimes former players have a tendency to turn away from the game and not really watch it, but in the job he had, he religiously watched games every night and kept up to date on everything.
"While talking to other general managers and League officials, trainers and equipment guys, I was amazed with how well respected he is. He's highly regarded in many facets in our business and those types of things are invaluable. Add to that he was a former great player ??? he has a wealth of information in that head that I'm looking forward to tap into."
Blake said he considers it a privilege to be able to work with and for Lombardi.
"Dean has come in and transformed the organization and has taken it to its highest plateau ever [by winning the Stanley Cup in 2012]," Blake said. "That is now the standard here. Winning the Cup has become a standard and it's great to be a part of that moving forward."
Blake captained the Kings from 1996-2001 and again in 2007-08. He is the franchise leader among defensemen in games played (805), goals (161), assists (333), points (494), power-play goals (92), game-winning goals (29) and shots (2,468).
Blake said he watched the Kings during their playoff run this past spring and was impressed by their determination when the chips were down. The Kings finished as the fifth seed in the Western Conference and reached the conference final before losing in five games to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks.
"I thought the team had a tremendous year; they were competitive and got things going after a slow start," Blake said. "You could see they found their game, beating St. Louis [in six games in the first round] and San Jose [in seven games in the second round] before losing to Chicago. But there was no quit. It's tough to win and do it over and over, but they were up to the task. There are a lot of pieces that Dean has set in place here and that was on display last season.
"Hopefully, we can keep that going forward."