Rob Blake spent much of his storied career playing for the Los Angeles Kings, the San Jose Sharks Pacific Division rivals. Now the former rival is a teammate and the man who played 69 games against the Sharks (tied for second all-time) will don teal in an effort to win a Stanley Cup in California.
For the Sharks, signing Blake was an easy decision as long as the interest was mutual. Knowing the slim chances that Brian Campbell would return, Wilson knew who his first call would be to when the free agent period began.
“I talked to Rob right after free agency began,” said Doug Wilson of the July 1 contact. “He was the first call I made. We really knew Brian Campbell was not coming back.”
Blake obviously likes what he’s seen from his Southern California vantage point.
“I’ve always admired the team,” said Blake. “They’re on the verge every year. It’s exciting to go up the road and play for a championship. You look at San Jose’s lineup. I see this as a very hungry team. They’re similar to when I went into Colorado. I want to fit into the team and help in any way possible.”
It was not the first time Wilson had hunted the big blueliner.
“Yes, we have pursued him in the past,” said Wilson. “He is a player we have identified for a long time. It was a fit for our team and we found closure today.”
Who Blake plays with and how much will be left to Todd McLellan and his coaching staff.
“It’s up to Todd,” said Wilson. “He is a right shot who can run the power play and has won a Norris Trophy and a Stanley Cup. Todd is familiar with him.”
Blake’s All-Star credentials are beyond reproach and the only question was whether the 38-year-old was going to return for another campaign. After all, besides the Norris Trophy, seven All-Star trips and a Stanley Cup, what else was there? It came down to a deep desire to compete.
“Great players need to have the ability to win,” said Wilson. “They thrive on it. I think this will bring out the best in him. The last half of last season is the best he’s played in a long time. He is ready to win.”
“To watch the playoffs and see how exciting they were made the decision to come back and play (easy),” said Blake.
For as talented as Blake is, the intangibles might be just as important.
“He is a great pro who trains hard,” said Wilson. “He can help drive us to the next level. He’s a great athlete and a great skater.”
Wilson doesn’t appear ready to simply rely on Blake.
“I don’t think we’re done yet to be honest with you,” said Wilson, who noted the Sharks do have some financial flexibility if a situation presents itself. “We have a bit of room. Our players have stepped up with good contracts to build a competitive team. Nobody does it better than Detroit, but we’re fortunate with guys like Thornton, Marleau, Nabokov and Cheechoo.”
Blake’s first full season was the year prior to the Sharks entering the NHL. It would be the sweetest of ironies if the former rival helped the Sharks win their first title.