Rob Blake Saga: Part II

EL SEGUNDO, CALIFORNIA - JULY 23: Vice President and General Manager Rob Blake of the Los Angeles Kings prepares for the first round of the 2021 NHL Entry Draft at Toyota Sports Performance Center on July 23, 2021 in El Segundo, California. (Photo by Chris Wohlers/NHLI via Getty Images)

Following a disappointing conclusion to the 2016 season, the Los Angeles Kings were reaching a pivotal fork in the road about the franchise’s direction. The acquisition of Milan Lucic over the offseason set the bar high in regard to the expectations from the fan base. This offseason, the King’s big splash was the pivot from Dustin Brown to Anze Kopitar as captain. The Kings entered the season with high hopes that were met with high disappointment as the Kings finished with a record of 39-35-8 to a total of 86 points and 5th in the Pacific Division. Los Angeles missed the playoffs for the 2nd time in 3 years, and though the team was decimated by injury, that result would not be accepted by the Kings front office. The Kings couldn’t reach a deal with Lucic over the offseason entering the season and put the spotlight over Lombardi’s head for results.

Injuries Derail Season:

Prior to the season even starting, winger Marian Gaborik was already slated to miss some time. Upon his return in late November, it appeared that the Kings were going to be healthy and make a push to start rolling. Bam, Tyler Toffoli goes down on December 20th and misses over a month of action prior to his return in February. Continuity never really seemed to spark, and in Daryl Sutter’s North and South style of hockey, it’s imperative to be in sync. On January 20th, the Kings were given another gut punch when blossoming defenseman Derek Forbort went down and was put on LT-IR. The Kings just never really seemed to have enough time together to gel for that final push to reach the postseason. LA finished the season 9-8-2 the final 2 months of the season and was kept out of the playoffs again.

Regrouping at the End of an Era

This season marked the last that former head coach Darryl Sutter sat behind the bench for the Kings. As LA was ushering in the John Stevens era, it was saying goodbye to two men that brought the organization its first two Stanley Cups. Rob Blake replaces Dean Lombardi, and the wheels are in motion for a rebuild to take shape. The season undoubtedly revealed the cracks in the foundation that were left by Dean Lombardi’s moves in the previous few seasons. So, the uphill battle began for Rob Blake to accrue assets and set the stage for what’s to come under his management. Adrian Kempe was introduced to the team playing a mere 25 games and was slated for a much bigger role in the 2017-18 season. The changing of the guard is complete, and over the offseason, Rob Blake made his first pick in the draft as Gabriel Vilardi was selected. The new era begins.

Jacob Mandel

LAK writer and avid fan of the NHL. U.S. Navy Veteran and student. Los Angeles, CA

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