The 100 greatest players list in NHL history was completed last weekend, and originally I didn’t have major qualms about it. It’s difficult to detract from any player on the list, because all included are truly transcendent figures within the history of the game. However, the more I thought about it, a particular Los Angeles Kings omission is quite egregious: Rob Blake.
It might not be the most outlandish exclusion, but Joe Thornton isn’t my battle. It’s not my responsibility to argue for Jarome Iginla until I’m blue in the face. Blake needs an advocate, and I think I can be that crusader.
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The easiest way to go about this is to stick within his position. If the list is based on precedent, then any omitted player that you can successfully argue is better than a player who made the list can be justifiably labeled as a snub.
This logic admittedly has flaws, though. Among defensemen, I’m assuming that Blake is the very best that was left off the list. That’s a discussion for another day.
All we have to do to open the floodgates of doubt is plant the seeds that just one defenseman included is inferior to Blake.
It might be better to focus on the defensemen included in the more recent announcement, which featured players who played predominately after 1967. Eras closer to Blake’s are more conducive to this exercise in comparison.
The blueliners selected over him in that second list of 67 players were Ray Bourque, Chris Chelios, Paul Coffey, Duncan Keith, Brian Leetch, Nicklas Lidstrom, Al MacInnis, Scott Niedermayer, Bobby Orr, Brad Park, Denis Potvin, Chris Pronger, Larry Robinson, Borje Salming, Serge Savard, and Scott Stevens.
It can be as clean of a swap as possible. No forwards or goaltenders have to go; just one of Blake’s positional peers.
Again, these are all great players, but so is Blake. I don’t even want to pick on one guy specifically, not just because it’s a bit callous, but also because it creates a stronger case for Blake if multiple players can be portrayed as inferior to him.
Let’s start with Norris Trophies, which are the hallmark of excellence at the position. It is an award designated to the preeminent defenseman in a given season. Reason would dictate that the players mentioned above have at least one, because Blake has one.
Among the defensemen included in the final 67 picks, Orr, Lidstrom, Bourque, Chelios, Coffey, Potvin, Leetch, Keith, and Robinson all have multiple Norris Trophies. As far as I’m concerned, their inclusion on the list is absolutely merited.
However, MacInnis, Niedermayer, Park, Pronger, Salming, Savard, and Stevens can’t claim that. Park, Salming, Savard, and Stevens don’t have any Norris Trophies at all.
Blake has more career points than Savard, so he might be the easiest person for Blake to supercede. What really works in Savard’s favor is his remarkable 8 Stanley Cup championships.
However, that’s really more of a testament to how incredible those Montreal Canadiens teams were. He was a great player in a fantastic situation.
Blake wasn’t as fortunate to play on dominant teams as often. Plus he did win a Cup with the Colorado Avalanche in 2001. He scored 19 points in those 23 playoff games during that postseason, proving tremendously crucial to the championship.
The “winner” argument can’t be used against Blake, because he got his championship. Savard was a key player in a dynasty, but to put him on the same level as Blake seems shoddy.
Savard never finished higher than 4th in Norris Trophy voting during his 17 year NHL career. The proponents of him over Blake really just have the vast multitude of Cups to cite, but that’smore of a team accomplishment.
This is a list of the 100 greatest individual players in league history. It’s just hard to effectively argue that Savard is better than Blake.
I said I wasn’t going to pick on one specific player, so I’ll throw in some added details. Blake had more career points than Niedermayer and Pronger. I’ll include Keith with an asterisk because he’s still active.
Blake also averaged more points per game than both Niedermayer and Pronger during his career, so it isn’t a case of simple longevity prevailing.
As far as I’m concerned, you could make a compelling case that Blake belongs over Savard, Niedermayer, or Pronger, starting most convincingly with Savard and least convincingly with Pronger.
The group of Orr, Lidstrom, Bourque, Chelios, Coffey, Potvin, Leetch, and Robinson unequivocally belong on the list ahead of Blake.
Keith is an interesting case, just because he’s still playing and it’s unclear what more he’s going to accomplish. However, 3 Cups, 2 Norris Trophies, and a Conn Smythe Trophy doesn’t make his inclusion profoundly outrageous. I’m fine with it.
I’ll take MacInnis ahead of Blake. He has a Cup, a Norris, a Conn Smythe, plus more goals and assists than Blake. I don’t have an issue there.
Park had more points than Blake, and finished 2nd in the Norris Trophy voting 7 times during his 17 year career. My argument isn’t with the Park inclusion.
Salming came in the top 5 in Norris Trophy voting for the first 7 seasons of his career, and peaked at number 2 twice.
This is probably around the same area that Blake should be rated. Blake finished in the top 5 in Norris voting 5 separate times in his career, including a win.
Expanding that metric out a bit, Pronger had 7 separate top 5 Norris finishes, and Niedermayer had 4 seasons in the top 5 of Norris voting.
Blake fits in nicely amongst this Pronger, Niedermayer, and Salming trio. What about Stevens? He has more career points than Blake, but less career points per game.
Stevens finished in the top 5 of Norris Trophy voting 7 separate times, including 2 yearsas the runner-up in voting. He also won a Conn Smythe.
Again, we’re in comparable territory with this one. Blake can be fairly mentioned in the same sentence as guys like Salming, Pronger, Niedermayer, and Stevens.
It seems like Savard ends up being the odd man out if one particular player has to slip. However, I think a really persuasive argument could be presented that Blake had a better career than Salming, Pronger, Niedermayer, and Stevens, yet he was omitted from the list of 100.
When I first saw the list, I was surprised Blake wasn’t included, but not annoyed by it. After giving it some thought, I really feel like it’s a travesty that he didn’t make the list. He definitely deserved to.