Moving along to JJ's mentor through his first season with the Kings, Rob Blake. Blake definitely had an up-and-down season in terms of numbers, but then again, so did everyone on the roster. I think the only ones that weren't in such flux were Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown. One could argue for Patrick O'Sullivan, but we're not discussing forwards at this moment so let's get back to Blake.
Blake played in 71 games this season getting 9 goals, 22 assists, for 31 points. His +/- was obviously poor at a -19, and he collected 98 PIM, which was second only to Raitis Ivanans. He missed some games in the middle of the season due to a fracture in his foot that moved him to the IR for a time. It was during the 8-game, east coast swing when this occurred, so he had to fly back to LA and get evaluated. This put Kings nation up in arms about what was going to happen to him at the trade deadline. Surely he had to go; what use was he to the Kings now that he was slow and old, right? Wrong. We don't know what was going on behind the scenes; there have been stories tossed around about things that may or may not have been said regarding JJ, trade issues, etc. We just don't know the whole story. I think the fact that a no-trade clause was in play soured Kings fans even more on this whole situation. But there's a reason they are there. God knows that veterans have earned that privilege of having them, and I don't think people should waive them whenever the fans want the player to do so. (I think if anyone takes a close look at who on the Kings has a no-trade clause, he or she would be surprised.) They're not there for the sole reason to waive. They have their function but they have also been the cause of much distress on other rosters (i.e. Toronto Maple Leafs).
What could we have realistically gotten for him? A prospect? I'm not sure that would have been so cut and dry as a Demitra-for-Sully trade would have been (although that did also involve a pick, which turned out to be Trevor Lewis). What about a pick? How many did we need?? We have 15. Did the idea of having one more really appeal to the masses? In the end Dean Lombardi said that he wouldn't approach Blake unless an offer worth the consideration came up on the table. DL apparently didn't see any great substance with any offers sent his way, so Blake spent the rest of the season with the Kings. And really, thank god. After Jaroslav Modry (trade), Brad Stuart (trade), and JJ (injury) were off the roster at the end of the season, who ELSE would we have had to recall? Another rookie? Manchester had 17 rookies this season! That's ridiculous! They were having their own struggles in trying to make it to their own playoffs.
Bottom line: I saw Blake as a positive this season. I know there are many Kings fans who saw him as being overpaid, old, injured, and being someone who didn’t bring anything to the team. Yes, he didn't play like he used to and didn’t put up great numbers for the first half of the season, but he bounced back and hit more milestones this year and helped in JJ’s development both on and off the ice. And didn’t he come back to LA saying that he wanted to help this team get better? If you don’t think JJ’s better now because of Blake’s influence, I’d say you were nuts.
At the beginning of the season he was paired with Lubomir Visnovsky on the left while he was on the right (also on the power play). From around the time when Mo was sent packing, he was paired with JJ. He rounded out the season manning the blueline with Jon Klemm. There was one game where he was sent out as a forward for one shift. I was listening to this game on the radio and was unable to see this, but I wish I was able to... to see how much the team was floundering.
It's been stated by the Kings brass that they're looking to bring Blake back for another year, which I'm very happy about. Obviously he's gonna need to take that hometown discount since he's 38 now and shouldn't be taking as many minutes from game-to-game when there are rookies who need it more (Peter Harrold). It's definitely time for the newbies on the blueline to start munching some minutes. I feel like they won't go above $3.25 million for this upcoming season. They can always go with $3 mil and add some incentives throughout the year for him. He obviously doesn't need the money, but you can't insult the man. But please guys, hurry up and sign him so you can get all of those other UFAs and RFAs signed!
P.S. For all those people who think Blake's number shouldn't get retired by the Kings, look at his stats and accomplishments and then SHUT YOUR PIE HOLE.