There’s been a lot of focus on the Kings’ young players, and rightfully so, but I wonder about what this season will bring for Rob Blake. Blake turns 38 in December and he’s coming off a season in which he had 34 points and a minus-26 rating, his worst numbers in a decade. Yet, he’s still a valued member of the defensive corps, a presumed tutor for Jack Johnson and a probable team captain. Should be an interesting season for Blake.
In purely hockey terms, Blake is still a contributor. Not a $6-million contributor, but an imposing body on the blue line with a strong shot who can contribute on the power play. Plus, even though his assist totals dipped last season, he has scored at least 13 goals in each of his last eight seasons, and no more than 19 goals. So the consistency is there, in terms of goal production.
Is he going to improve at this point? No. Is he a Norris Trophy candidate? No. Blake isn’t going to get any faster, even if he is healthier this season, and as he gets older, the number of mistakes will only increase. Is he overpaid? Yes, although Blake can “earn” a good portion of that big salary this season if he comes through for the Kings in other ways.
A lot has been made of the Blake-Johnson connection, but I’m not sure too much can be made of it. With the possible exception of Kopitar, no player means more to the Kings’ future than Jack Johnson. Coaching will play a big part in Johnson’s development, but he could also benefit greatly from the type of “big brother” support that Blake could lend. Johnson has talent, but he’s also young and needs to learn the lay of the land, in terms of what it means to be a NHL player. Blake, who has seen it all, can help guide Johnson through his first full season.
Is a Blake-Johnson on-ice pairing the best for the Kings? I’m not certain, and that’s why I don’t have Marc Crawford’s salary… But I think it’s an interesting topic to think about.
Will Blake be captain? It’s an interesting question. One would certainly assume so, since he preceded Norstrom in that role. Blake isn’t a rah-rah guy, but then again, neither was Norstrom. It’s fair to say he provides the same type of leadership, and anyone with a Norris Trophy on his resume commands respect. I believe Derek Armstrong is underrated as a team leader, but other than him I can’t think of another viable candidate other than Blake.