Only days after parting ways with assistant GM Ron Hextall who took the same position with the Philadelphia Flyers, the Los Angeles Kings have announced that said position has been filled by one of their former defenseman: Rob Blake.
Despite spending parts of 14 seasons with the Kings which included two tenures, there are still some hard feelings directed at Blake from a large part of the Los Angeles fanbase.
Nearing the end of the 2007-08 season, the Los Angeles Kings, who were still in rebuilding mode, had wishes to trade the veteran Blake only to have the Norris-winning blueline refuse to waive his no-trade clause as he wanted to finish his career in Los Angeles – or so we thought.
Instead, Blake, who became an unrestricted free agent that summer, signed with, of all teams, Los Angeles’s state rival in the San Jose Sharks – and from there, one of the Kings’ most beloved players became scorned immediately.
While the Kings organization has since paid homage to Blake by not letting any of its players wear the defenseman’s trademark Number 4, fans in Los Angeles haven’t been so easy to forgive a player they once saw as one of the most important pieces to the franchise’s success (or lack thereof).
For those who still harbour hard feelings towards Blake, that’s okay. After all, I was one of those fans for quite a few years as well. With that said, as upset as I was at Blake for first refusing to be traded back in 2008, it was the team’s own fault for giving the defenseman a no-trade clause to begin with. That’s not to say that the Kings deserve all the blame but it is fair to point out that there are two sides to every story – or if you were to ask fans of the defunct nineties band Extreme, there are actually three sides – but I digress. You’re welcome.
With Blake’s refusal to be traded, the Kings missed out on picking up a prospect or a couple of draft picks. At the time, it was a tough pill to swallow. As time went on, though, there was less reason to worry.
While Blake went to the Western Final with the Sharks in 2010, they did get swept by the eventual Cup winners, the Chicago Blackhawks. That would be the furthest the San Jose Sharks ever came to the Stanley Cup while Rob Blake was there. Just two years later, the Kings won their first Stanley Cup in franchise history while the Sharks have yet to appear in the Final. You can look at that however you want to but to me, that amounts to a sweet dose of justice for Kings’ fans everywhere.
So, while you don’t have to agree with me, I say forgive and forget. After all, the Los Angeles Kings did receive the greatest revenge of all – and that was despite not being able to gain any assets at Blake’s expense.
Prior to taking on the assistant GM’s role in Los Angeles, Rob Blake served in the NHL’s department of safety where he worked alongside former Olympic teammate Brendan Shanahan in an effort to make the game of hockey better.
Whether his experience at the league level will translate to success with the Kings remains to be seen but in a way, it’s a fresh start not only for the Kings but Rob Blake himself.
However, if Rob Blake wants to get out of the bad books of the Kings fans who still don’t forgive him for his insubordination if you will five years earlier, then he needs to do his new job well enough that the Los Angeles Kings become a better team tomorrow than they were yesterday.
On paper, it seems easy but only time will tell whether Rob Blake’s off-ice career in Los Angeles will be as impressive as his on-ice career that saw him score 240 goals and 537 assists in 1,270 career games.
Welcome to Los Angeles, Rob Blake – and good luck. If you’re priority is to win all the fans over, you’re going to need it.