This is how a hockey fan knows they're officially old: A guy you watched break into the league as a rookie with a huge future calls it a career.
Rob Blake retires after twenty years.
One of the most bone-headed moves ever made by the Kings in their long, bone-headed history was trading Blake in 2001 instead of just biting the bullet and paying him a superstar's salary. He had earned it. For some reason - and I've never understood this - a lot of Kings Nation turned on Blake after the Colorado trade. Their perception was that he was greedy (he was a free agent at the end of the season and wanted the Kings to either discuss a big contract or let him try the FA market) and forced the trade. It only added insult to injury that Blake and the Avalanche won the Cup that year, and the Avs then awarded Blake the payday the Kings hadn't wanted to give him.
I've always felt the Kings handled that situation badly. They did the same thing a few years ago during Blake's second stint with the Kings, reported failing to return calls about re-signing him until his agent, acting in Rob's best interest, pointed out that he needed to consider other offers while he had still had them. The result was Blake signing with the San Jose Sharks, with whom he almost won another Cup this year.
Look at it this way: Blake and Luc Robitaille, two guys who should never have worn anything but a Kings jersey throughout their entire careers, both had to play elsewhere to win their Stanley Cups (Blake with Colorado and Lucky with Detroit). In over forty years of existence the Kings have yet to win a championship, and in fact have only made it to in the finals once (with both Blake and Robitaille, as well as Wayne Gretzky, in the lineup), losing to Montreal in 1993. I think that reflects more on the team's management over the years than it does about the players.
I was always a fan of Blake's. Thanks for the memories, Rob, and enjoy your retirement!
Links and info:
Official L.A. Kings - Los Angeles Daily News - Blake career timeline from lakings.com and NHL.com - Puck Daddy pays tribute to Blake's physical style of play - Official San Jose Sharks - Blake retirement discussion at HF Boards (Kings fans) - Blake retirement discussion at HF Boards (Sharks fans)