Monday, March 05, 2007

The Unique Mr Blake

That's not Modano's grandad in this picture, it's Jason Blake of the New York Islanders. That's not a flattering picture, but this guy isn't aging gracefully. I've seen quite a bit of the last two Isles games and when you see him on the bench, buddy looks old enough to retire from the post office. Plays like a much younger man though.

I checked for Blake on hockeydb.com and it's one bizarre career path.

I just assumed he was a lot younger because you never really started hearing about him until a few years ago. But he's 33 right now and will turn 34 before next training camp.

I always think of Pisani as the prototypical late bloomer. But this guy has to be the new benchmark for me. At least in the modern era. On Blake's 29th birthday, he had scored a grand total of 19 goals in the NHL, and had played only 194 games.

If any GM had acquired him at that point, and predicted he was going to become a scorer, hockey fans everywhere would have laughed out loud.

But the guy has been a regular scoring threat for the past 4 NHL seasons. Consistent and effective, and from what I have seen, and by the numbers, he can play against anyone. And prior to this season he has put up most of his points without playing with Yashin. The guy can just flat out play the game, you'd have a helluva time proving otherwise. Still a mystery why he couldn't have found a way to contribute more when he was in his 20s, though. To say the least, this isn't a very long track record.

Next is hearsay taken from a fanboard, so believe it at your own peril, but apparently shortly after he was acquired as an Islander his wife became very ill (cancer while she was pregnant or some such, according to the Islander fans) and the wacky but likable Charles Wang offered his private jet to Blake, flying him around to be able to spend as much time with his wife as he could. If true, then it's a nice gesture considering the guy was way too old to be a prospect and had never had success as an NHLer at the time. This wasn't star treatment or anything.

So you can see why Wang is a bit pissed at Blake's salary demands, reported to be $17M over four years.

For the life of me, I can't imagine anyone paying him this much. Though there are a few GMs in this league that are capable of anything. I suspect that the Isles will wait until the market determines his price in July and then try to work out a contract that is a bit more reasonable.

A strange case though, I mean the guy didn't play his first year of pro hockey until he was 26 years old, so maybe there aren't as many hard miles on him as a guy who had been living the grind since they were 19, I don't know. But then you look at the guy, and you'd guess he was wearing his age on his jersey. It's just such an unlikely story, the way he came out of nowhere. And while there is nothing in his game to suggest that he will go back to "nowhere" ... he's such an odd case, that for some reason I think he just might. And while a lot of forwards are still positive contributors at the age of 38, those guys were almost always damn good when they were 25 too, they weren't playing in college.

I just don't know if there are any reasonable comparables for this player, and I wouldn't even guess how the market will react to him. A damn interesting player. And he's a guy to watch in July.

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Update #1: YKoil's new blog is now linked on the sidebar. He's a clever guy and an interesting writer, I'd highly recommend it.

Update #2: While I was at it I linked to MJ's baseball style NHL conference standings. The presentation isn't as nice at the ones Matt sometimes puts up at BofA. But they update automatically, so they're always current.

Update #3: The Isles/Rangers game is on RDS and Versus. It should be a good tilt. Poti and Bergeron are in the second pairing and see quite a bit of the other team's best players. And they do pretty well. Poti has looked genuinely poised in both games I've seen him play this year. Seriously. The bottom pairing of Campoli/Meyer is kind of "fun but frightening" though :)

5 Comments:

Blogger sacamano said...

That first paragraph is spectacular!

3/05/2007 1:18 pm  
Blogger DTK said...

Vic, look everybody I can post again;) considering that you watched the Isles again last night, just like I did, what do you make of the maturation of Poti?

It was just a couple of years ago that he was putting up points like we thought he could, not sure what his PP and ES rates/Hr were and I'm just going by counting stats, but I've been blown away by how much tougher he is. Playing the body down low and punching people in the mouth after whistles. The big guy is finally using his size.

Also, how about hill? that guy just loves to hit. he's playing big min there as well. his aggressiveness has really impressed me.

3/06/2007 10:08 am  
Blogger Black Dog said...

Dennis - two words.

Ted Nolan.

Guy is a great great coach.

3/06/2007 12:34 pm  
Blogger Vic Ferrari said...

That was such a violent game, plus Poti's old team and the Ranger fans were booing him, I'm thinking that's maybe why he was getting so physically involved. I've seen good chunks of the last two games though and I'm really impressed with his poise.

And Hill? Ya, damn I thought he was retired. He may be playing a little lighter now, looks very quick out there. And like you say, and the numbers echo it, him and Witt have been carrying the mail a lot back there. Mostly it just looks like the Isles game plan with the D is to keep that bottom pairing away from talent at all costs.

I'm impressed with how reliable that Bergeron has looked as well. I had just assumed they were slotting him in as an effective bottom pairing guy there, on the surface it seems a bit scary to see him and Poti as the second pairing, but so far so good.

That Campoli guy, and Meyer too, damn they look like a dodgy duo. But they're in the black at 5v5 so they can't be that bad.

Having said all of that, I think you and I could play D on that team and not look too bad doing it, Dennis. :D

.

Jagr was just "on" last night though, and that Jagr matchup vs Kozlov's line was five kinds of strange. The whole Rangers team seemed to have more jump on this night. They won just way more than their fair share of the puck battles. DiPietro was both terrific and lucky I thought.

.

And on the subject of unlikely guys playing a tough game. When did Nylander's balls drop? Damn!

3/06/2007 2:11 pm  
Blogger DTK said...

I think that DiPetro is gonna be just wonderful. He has that kid in him where he still moves around too much and gets himself out of position but TME he's lost a bit of that this year and is just super solid bordering on outstanding.

3/06/2007 9:32 pm  

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