The Los Angeles Kings are writing some of the most memorable moments in their franchise history these days, but they’ll pause that process tonight to retire the number of Rob Blake, the best defenceman in Kings history so far.
Drew Doughty may one day usurp Blake of that mantle. But for now, No. 4 stands as the top blueliner in franchise history, and the Kings’ most recent contribution to the Hall of Fame.
That’s not bad for the hard-hitting Simcoe, Ontario native, who was drafted in the fourth round (70th overall) by L.A. in 1988.
Blake was a beast of a blueliner, notching 240 goals and 777 points in 1,270 regular season games with the Kings, Colorado Avalanche and San Jose Sharks. He also added 26 goals and 73 assists in 146 career playoff games.
But the points were just one aspect of Blake’s game. He was probably better-known for his deadly hip checks.
Here’s one of many YouTube supercuts of Blake hammering opponents. Apologies for the Rammstein, and yes, a lot of these hits would be so, so illegal in today’s NHL.
There are plenty of reasons to praise Rob Blake, but there are also a few sour points in his history with the L.A. franchise. Blake managed to upset a lot of Kings fans when he left to win a Stanley Cup with the Colorado Avalanche, but he’s twice returned to the franchise he started with after stints in other cities. His most recent return was to become the assistant general manager, which allowed him to be part of the Kings’ most recent Stanley Cup win in 2014.
Here’s a look at some of the most memorable moments from Blake’s playing time with the Kings. Some of them will appear in L.A.’s video montage on Saturday night. Others… not so much.
1993 – Bridesmaid to Lord Stanley
Before he won a Stanley Cup with Colorado, Blake fell short of that ultimate prize with the Wayne Gretzky-led Kings in 1993. The Kings lost to Montreal in five games in the final that year, but their run stood as a high-water mark for the franchise until Dustin Brown and company finally won the Cup almost two decades later.
Blake notched four goals, 10 points and 46 penalty minutes in that playoff run.
1996 – Oh captain, my captain
As far as captains go, Rob Blake had some pretty big shoes to fill.
Blake missed most of the 1995-96 season, and he wasn’t there when L.A. traded face-of-the-franchise and team captain Wayne Gretzky to St. Louis.
But Blake was there when the Kings asked him to replace Gretzky as the 11th captain in team history. He was no Gretzky, but he was a homegrown product and a top defender in the league.
1997-98 – King of blueliners
Rob Blake has one thing current Kings defender Drew Doughty doesn’t have: a Norris Trophy.
Blake won the award for top defenceman in the NHL in the 1997-98 season, with 23 goals, 50 points, 94 penalty minutes and a minus-3 rating while playing 81 games for L.A. It was Blake’s second 20-goal season and the most he ever scored in a single campaign.
2001 – Escape from L.A.
It’s never popular when a player requests a trade, but when that player’s the captain, you can’t blame a fan base for feeling a little jilted.
That’s exactly what happened in 2001, when Blake asked to be dealt at the trade deadline before his contract expired in the summer. The Kings granted his wish and he went on to win a Stanley Cup that year with Colorado, then re-signed with the Avalanche for three more seasons.
Fans weren’t so happy to see him when he returned to L.A. in a visiting jersey.
2006 – Homecoming King
Five years, one Stanley Cup and one Olympic gold medal later, Rob Blake returned to Los Angeles as a free agent in the summer of 2006.
But that was also 390 regular and playoff games later, and the rigours of Blake’s hard-hitting style had begun to take a toll on his offensive output.
Blake came down from a 14-goal, 51-point campaign in Los Angeles to score 14 goals and 34 points for L.A., while registering a wretched minus-26 rating to go with 82 penalty minutes.
He was named team captain – again – in 2007, and served one more full season with L.A. before inking a deal with the Kings’ cross-state rivals in San Jose.