Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Robinson sees potential in Blues, eager to help them win

Nine-time Stanley Cup winner joined franchise 
recently as senior consultant to hockey operations

ST. LOUIS -- Larry Robinson has been involved in one form or another in hockey for 47 years, and when a spring phone call came from Blues general manager Doug Armstrong, Robinson felt obligated to listen.

Robinson, 66, who was recently hired as a senior consultant to hockey operations by the Blues, was most recently in the San Jose Sharks organization, as associate coach and most recently, as director of player development but was not offered a position after his contract expired this year.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Hockey Hall of Famer Larry Robinson was recently named as a senior
consultant to hockey operations by the Blues.

So Armstrong called Robinson and asked what he was thinking of doing, the two got talking and the Blues' GM asked if the Hall of Famer would be interested in joining the Blues in some capacity.

Robinson didn't need a whole lot of convincing.

"He's one of the nicest men that I've spoken to. He's a great man," Robinson said of Armstrong. "He's been in the game for a while. He's learned from a lot of good people as well. 

"I feel very comfortable being around him and talking to him. That's half the battle too."

Robinson joins the Blues staff with quite the credentials; he played in 1,384 regular-season games and 227 playoff games during his 20-year NHL career with the Montreal Canadiens (1972-89) and the Los Angeles Kings (1989-92). He was a member of six Cup-winning teams with the Canadiens and won the Norris Trophy as the NHL's top defenseman twice (1977 and 1980) before being inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1995, and was named one of the 100 Greatest NHL Players on Jan. 27.

Robinson also won the Stanley Cup in 1995, 2000 and 2003 as a coach or assistant with the New Jersey Devils.

Robinson, who first broke into hockey in 1968 with the Hull Beavers of the Canadian Junior Hockey League, has been part of nine Stanley Cup-winning teams and hopes to add to his resume by helping the Blues attempt to win their first as a franchise.

"I knew that I wasn't going to have a place and about the end of June and I wanted to do something in hockey, not necessarily full time but I wanted to stay involved," Robinson said. "I got a call in and around that time from Doug and asking if I would be interested in coming aboard here and helping out in all areas of the hockey operations or whatever. I said, 'Yes, I'd be very interested,' and went from there."

One might ask what Robinson has left to prove. The answer: nothing. He's reached the pinnacle in this league multiple times as a player and coach and has worked in a consulting level. 

"This isn't about trying to prove anything," Robinson said. "This is about staying involved in the game and applying some of the things I've learned over my career as a player, as a coach, as a consultant, just things that I've learned over 47 years of hockey. I wish I had the opportunity when I was coaching to have somebody that could come in and offer me some advice, and in some cases, I did. (Jacques) Lemaire was a huge help for me when I first started coaching. As a coach or as a team or as a management, you never stop learning. In any area that you can get some help, then I guess you take it."

Robinson will lend a helping hand in whatever capacity the Blues ask. He could lend a voice to Armstrong on a management level, or if asked, Blues coach Mike Yeo could ask for advice with the on-ice product.

"For me, that's something that I've always been interested is that idea of having a resource like that, that you can turn to, somebody that you can have a chat with and just take from their experience to learn from," Yeo said of Robinson. "You look at a guy like Larry, his career as a player, his career as a coach, what he's accomplished, what he's experienced. It would be really difficult not to find a way you could use him and not to find a way you could learn from him. I think it's going to be a great thing for me and for our group.

"I love it, for me personally. I'm pretty stubborn and I'm pretty strong-minded as far as things that I believe in and certain things that I want to see take place. But at the same time, I need to grow, as a coach. Just like players need to grow. If we want to win a Stanley Cup, we have to get better, each individual. I'm asking our players to do that, to buy into that. It wouldn't be serving them properly if I wasn't asking them to do the same thing. I've got a lot of things that I really believe in, but I'm committed to learning some other ideas and have some other voices around that's going to continue to push our group going forward, so I think it's going to be a great thing."

Whatever the case may be, even after 47 years in the game, Robinson said there's always something new to learn, which is one of the burning desires to keep a hand in hockey.

"I learned very early from Gordie (Howe)," Robinson said. "I got to play with him in an all-star game in Detroit, I said, 'Geez, how can you keep going at 52?' He said, 'You know what, all the years that I played, I never stopped learning.' I figured if it's good enough for him, it should be good enough for me."

Robinson was with the Blues through Oct. 2 and will be called upon twice a month or so to have hands-on work with them. 

A Florida resident, Robinson will rejoin the team when the Blues visit South Florida for games against the Florida Panthers on Oct. 12 and Tampa Bay Lightning on Oct. 14.

"This is an exciting time for me," Robinson said. "I'll do whatever it takes. It doesn't matter what position that you have, we're all in it for the same reasons, and that's to (reach) the ultimate goal. I know St. Louis came awfully close a lot of years, but we are in a really, really tough conference There's a lot of really good teams, tough division.

"... I think I'll be in contact with them on a daily, if not quite a bit over the phone and that kind of stuff. Just how much I'll be here, we haven't worked out those parameters yet. As much as I'm needed.

"I'll catch all the games the rest of the preseason and then we'll see as far as getting on the ice, if I'll get on the ice or not. We've got a lot of coaches. You can have too many of them too but I just would like to talk to the guys and get to know them, see if I can get into their heads a little bit, maybe offer a little advice, give them a few tips here or there."

Robinson said he's intrigued by the Blues because he likes the makeup of the squad and thinks they have the potential for great things, now and in the future.

"I've seen this team in the Western Conference," Robinson said. "I've seen a lot of them. Seeing them as an opponent and being with them day in and day out, you get to learn more about them as you see them every day by seeing them in practices and games. I'm looking forward to it.

"Just looking at the lineup right now, there's a lot of good, young kids. But it's like anything, you want to get an idea of what you have and then you really never know until the season starts. We've got a couple of key guys out with injuries right now. You want to hit the season in full stride, but you want to be healthy as well. Unfortunately, this isn't a 100-yard dash, it's a long race and there's a lot of games and there's a long time before the playoffs start."

Consulting is a perfect job for Robinson, who still has the burning desire to coach but doesn't miss certain aspects of it.

"I miss the coaching aspect of it, but I'm a realist, too, at my age, the traveling just kicks the crap out of me," Robinson said. "That's the biggest thing and was more so because I was in San Jose and the West Coast. 

"My last year, my first road trip was 7,500 miles and that pretty much took care of me right there. That's New Jersey in one year. That part of it I didn't enjoy, but I enjoy talking to the kids and I enjoy offering advice and any little things where I can help. I also like the camaraderie of being around a hockey team, in sports. That kind of thing, I really miss."

There will be times when Yeo calls on Robinson for a word -- or two -- of advice, and when he does, Robinson will be a giving voice.

"Definitely, but at the same time, he's got to do what he's got to do," Robinson said of Yeo. "It's easier for him to ask me. I'll offer my advice here and there, but I'm trying to keep my distance a little bit now because I don't want any preconceived notions on my part because when you're talking to each other, you can get influenced a little bit. ... It'll be a process, I'm sure. It's one that I'm very excited to be a part of."

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