by PuckStopsHere on 07/02/14 at 12:39 PM ET
A little over a week ago the 2014 Hockey Hall of Fame inductions were announced. Four players got the nod this year in Rob Blake, Peter Forsberg, Dominik Hasek and Mike Modano. Over the next few days I will make their individual Hall of Fame cases using the Keltner List, which is borrowed from baseball but can be used by hockey with only minor changes.
1. Was he ever regarded as the best player in baseball? Did anybody, while he was active, ever suggest that he was the best player in baseball?
I do not think that anyone seriously considered Blake to be the best player in hockey at any point.
2. Was he the best player on his team?
Blake was the best player on the Los Angeles Kings for many years. He was injured when Wayne Gretzky left the team in 1996, but he soon took over as their top player and held that position until 2001 when he was traded to Colorado. In Colorado he was not their top player although this is largely because the avs were an elite team. He was good enough that he would have been the top player on most NHL clubs at that time. By the time he left Colorado, he had aged enough that he was not likely to be the top player on any NHL teams anymore.
3. Was he the best player in baseball at his position? Was he the best player in the league at his position?
He won the 1998 Norris Trophy as top defenceman in the NHL. That is a strong claim to being the best player in his position. I would argue that he probably was not deserving of the award that year and he was a poor choice. This question however asks if he was the top player in his league at his position and in baseball where there are two leagues, I think he would qualify as having been one of the two best defencemen in the NHL, which is essentially what this question asks.
4. Did he have an impact on a number of pennant races?
He was a top player on the Avs 2001 Stanley Cup victory. He also was the top defenceman on their 2002 trip to the semi-finals and in Los Angeles's 1993 Stanley Cup final appearance. I would say this is a yes, although during the years he was the LA Kings best player, the team often missed the playoffs.
5. Was he a good enough player that he could continue to play regularly after passing his prime?
He turned 40 during his final NHL season in San Jose. That is well beyond the prime of any NHL player.
6. Is he the very best player in baseball history who is not in the Hall of Fame?
Among Hall of Fame eligible players who played primarily in the NHL (thus excluding Sergei Makarov), I don't think there is anyone who is clearly a better Hall of Fame choice who was not also inducted in the 2014 class. So I would argue this is a yes.
7. Are most players who have comparable career statistics in the Hall of Fame?
To properly answer this question we have to debate a bit about which stats are meaningful for defencemen. Blake had 777 career points and most defencemen who reach that total make the Hall. The clear counter-example is Phil Housley who has 1232 career points and is not there (yet?). Perhaps the stat that best shows Blake as a Hall of Famer is his post season All Star teams. He made four of them. He was a first teamer in 1998 when he won the Norris Trophy and made three second teams in 2000, 2001 and 2002. Four post season all star teams makes you an almost certain Hall of Famer.
8. Do the player's numbers meet Hall of Fame standards?
Yes. They do as shown in the previous answer.
9. Is there any evidence to suggest that the player was significantly better or worse than is suggested by his statistics?
As a defenceman it is hard to quantify the defensive aspects of Blake's game. He was a good defensive player. He was never seriously considered the best defensive defenceman in the game, but he would have been one of the top few in his best years. That makes him a better player than his statistics show.
10. Is he the best player at his position who is eligible for the Hall of Fame but not in?
Among eligible defencemen, I would argue that Blake is the best player.
11. How many MVP-type seasons did he have? Did he ever win an MVP award? If not, how many times was he close?
He never won an MVP award. He was never a serious candidate, although this is partly because defencemen rarely get serious MVP consideration. When he won the Norris Trophy in 1998 and again in the years 2000 through 2002, he was mentioned down-ballot by several voters. I wouldn't argue he was close to winning an MVP, but he got some consideration.
12. How many All-Star-type seasons did he have? How many All-Star games did he play in? Did most of the other players who played in this many go to the Hall of Fame?
Blake made six NHL All Star games. He was a significant snub in 1998 when he won the Norris Trophy. 1993 is probably another all star worthy season. Most players with six All star Games make the Hall of Fame, although a couple counter-examples can be found.
13. If this man were the best player on his team, would it be likely that the team could win the pennant?
During the time Blake was the best player on his Los Angeles Kings team, they did not have great success. They had two playoff berths and were eliminated in four straight games both times. I wouldn't take this to mean that a Blake-led team couldn't win. I think they could with a better supporting cast, but there is some evidence to the contrary.
14. What impact did the player have on baseball history? Was he responsible for any rule changes? Did he introduce any new equipment? Did he change the game in any way?
I would argue that Blake is one of the reasons the NHL was able to win the propaganda war to introduce a salary cap. Blake played in Los Angeles (one of the biggest markets in the NHL) and in a rebuilding effort was traded to the Colorado Avalanche (a much smaller market) and helped the Avs win the Stanley Cup. He was a free agent that summer and re-signed in Colorado as the Avs payroll "exploded". This helped to convince people that Colorado was a big market that was buying the Stanley Cup and small markets like Los Angeles needed help to keep their talent. It was a mistaken look at the NHL but it was a significant piece of propaganda used to bring in the most major change to the NHL in recent history. Thus, yes Rob Blake helped to change the NHL significantly. It was an unintended consequence of his actions, but the changes nevertheless occurred.
15. Did the player uphold the standards of sportsmanship and character that the Hall of Fame, in its written guidelines, instructs us to consider?
I cannot find any major anecdotes that strongly support or hurt his claim to upholding Hall of Fame standards, but given the way the NHL has accepted his as a leader, I must answer this question with a yes. Blake was a respected captain and has worked his way to being the LA Kings assistant GM. This shows that people around hockey respect his character.
Rob Blake is a solid Hall of Fame member. While he isn't the most elite player ever inducted, he clearly meets Hall of Fame standards.
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