In this edition of Los Angeles Kings News & Rumors, I’ll be discussing the recent hiring of Marc Bergevin, Rob Blake’s new multi-year contract, the Kings as possible buyers at this season’s trade deadline, a few pieces of COVID news, and an update on a few prospects.
Kings Add Bergevin to the Front Office
In what has to be the biggest piece of Kings news in 2022, on Sunday the team announced that former Montreal Canadiens general manager (GM) Bergevin would become an advisor for the team, and reports are suggesting he has a three-year deal in place to become the team’s new assistant GM. The response to this decision from fans has been mixed, at best. Several fans feel this is a poor decision, hiring a recently fired GM who has made plenty of headlines recently for the wrong reasons, while some fans feel he’ll bring much-needed experience into the front office.
This decision is baffling, and frankly disappointing. Bergevin did a fine job in Montreal, finishing first in the Atlantic three times, and reaching the Stanley Cup Final once during his tenure, but it is his questionable decision-making that raises red flags. Going back to before his time with the Canadiens, he was the assistant GM of the Chicago Blackhawks during the Kyle Beach situation, tried to re-sign former Kings defensemen Slava Voynov after he was suspended indefinitely for domestic violence, and most recently drafted Logan Mailloux in the first round of the 2021 draft.
I have long praised the Kings for their commitment to drafting good people as well as good players recently, but this is directly opposed to that commitment, and the organization knows this. Something The Athletic’s Lisa Dillman has pointed out multiple times since the hiring and she hit the nail on the head in her last article.
But the final sentence in the six-paragraph email from the Kings – in boldface, so reporters wouldn’t miss it – spoke volumes.
Please note: No further details are available and there will be no media availability at this time.From “Dillman: What were the Kings thinking in hiring Marc Bergevin, and what does it mean for the front office?” The Athletic, 1/10/22
The organization clearly knows this is a questionable decision and went ahead anyway. The NHL has long been criticized for the blatant existence of an “old boys club”, specifically within front offices, and this reeks of an old boys’ club hire. As many people have pointed out, Bergevin does have plenty of front office experience, and a tendency to make big trades which could help the team navigate through the next step of their rebuild, but I don’t buy that. Bergevin is far from the only experienced mind available for hire right now and they could have found what he brings from someone else. I understand this will likely have little impact on the team moving forward, as Blake and Luc Robitaille will still have the final say on all decisions, but this hiring is still highly questionable, and very disappointing.
Blake Earns New Contact & Plans on a Busy Deadline
Soon after the announcement that Bergevin was hired, Kings insider John Hoven announced that Blake signed a new deal to remain as the team’s GM. It is expected to be a multi-year deal, somewhere around 4-5 years. This also came not long after Blake featured on Hoven’s podcast, Kings of the Podcast, where he expressed an interest to stay and mentioned that he and Robitaille would sit down and discuss an extension soon. The talks happened quickly, as Blake soon signed his name to an extension.
In the same episode of Kings of the Podcast, Blake mentions the team’s interest in being buyers at the upcoming deadline. Blake was asked by The Fourth Period’s Dennis Bernstein if the Kings are still in a similar position to the one they’re currently in come the deadline, would they be buyers? Blakes response was,
Yeah, I think we want to improve our team….. I fully anticipate moves going forward will have impact on the roster going forward.– Rob Blake
Considering the last few trade deadlines have had a greater focus on moving veteran players for future assets, this could be a very exciting deadline for Kings fans. It will also be our first real look at how Blake performs when seeking out trades to improve the team. He has done a great job building up the prospect pool and setting the team up for future success, but the next 12-24 months will determine his success with the organization. If he gets these trades right moving forward, this team will be a contender for many years, if not, they could easily be back to square one.
Just a few notes on the COVID front. It was announced that Alex Iafallo and Alex Turcotte would be rejoining the team after their stint on the COVID protocol list, while Martin Frk will be entering COVID protocol. The COVID protocol list often takes and gives in equal fashion, however, I think the Kings come out on top this time bringing back a true top-six winger and one of their most prized prospects. Although, you have to feel for Frk, who has had terrible luck when looking to stake his claim on the roster over the last 12-15 months.
Byfield, Vilardi, & Fagemo Heating Up
Since returning to the Ontario Reign after his ankle fracture during the preseason, star prospect Quinton Byfield had found it difficult to produce offense despite his solid 200-foot play. That has all changed recently though, with Byfield catching fire over the last three games. He’s registered goals in three straight games and has four points in those three games, including two points against the first-placed Stockton Heat. Unsurprisingly, it took him a few games to find his offense after a serious ankle injury which saw him miss several months, but he’s clearly 100% now. The Byfield of these last three games is the player who would have made the Kings roster out of camp and earned himself the second overall pick in 2020. This is a dominant offensive force and we should see him on the Kings soon.
Alongside Byfield, Gabriel Vilardi and Samuel Fagemo have also been on a torrid pace. Fagemo also has goals in three straight, with four points in his last three games, and is emerging as one of the team’s most dangerous scorers. Someone has to fill Frk’s shoes as the team’s main goal threat, and perhaps unsurprisingly, Fagemo has stepped up in a big way. If he continues developing at this pace, we could see him in a Kings jersey before long.
Outside of Byfield, the biggest name on this Reign team is Vilardi. He was sent down after a rough start to the season to shift him to a full-time winger. He’s been excellent since his reassignment to the Reing but has found a new level over the last three games. With five points in his last three games, this is the kind of play that earns you a spot back on the NHL roster. Blake mentioned they want to see Vilardi become a point per game player in the American Hockey League (AHL) and he’s now proving to be exactly that. Excelling on a line with Byfield and Tyler Madden recently, the chemistry Vilardi and Byfield are developing should make Kings fans salivate. The plan is still to give Vilardi more time to develop in his new position but stretches like this might accelerate the process.
Kings in a Playoff Spot
Heading into Monday night’s matchup against the New York Rangers, the Kings occupy the final wild card spot in the Western Conference. The goal before the season started was a playoff return and the Kings are currently on pace to achieve that goal. Of course, consistency has been one of this team’s biggest issues, so it’s too soon to get overly excited. Still, the team is trending upward, and if Blake can pull off a few deals at the deadline, this team could be firmly inside the playoff picture come mid-April.
My name is Austin Stanovich, as a lifelong player and fan I’m hoping to bring my own unique perspective on the hockey world, specifically covering the Los Angeles Kings. As a SoCal native I grew up a Kings fan, and after graduating from Long Beach State in 2020 I’ve joined The Hockey Writers crew as a columnist for the Kings.