Unlike most others on the list, #6 on the list of the Greatest Colorado Avalanche of all-time wasn’t with the team during their first Cup run nor did he make his name inDenver.
No, by the time Rob Blake showed up, he’d already made a name for himself as one of the best defensemen in the NHL. Big, offensively gifted, and hard hitting – he was one of the few who still threw hip checks and used it to devastating effect – Blake was a star long before the 2001 NHL Trade Deadline.
He was acquired with center Steven Reinprecht for defenseman Aaron Miller and fan-favorite winger Adam Deadmarsh. But long before that, he was an under-the-radar defender for the Los Angeles Kings, the 70th pick in the 1988 draft.
During the ‘90s, Blake established himself as one of the best offensive defensemen around, a consistent 50-point player. He collected a Norris Trophy in 1998 as the league’s best defenseman after scoring 23 times, racking up 50 points, and leaving a trail of bodies destroyed with his famous hip check.
By the time the deadline rolled around, the Avalanche were looking to upgrade their blueline for the playoff run, a mission to win a Stanley Cup for veteran Ray Bourque dubbed “Mission 16W”. The trade was perfect for both sides: the Avalanche got their superstar defenseman, the Kings moved a high-priced player they weren’t willing to pay and got back a gritty, talented winger in Deadmarsh.
Blake proved to be a huge addition, posting 6 goals and 19 points in 23 playoff games that year and helping Bourque hoist the Cup for the first time. Lost in the shuffle and excitement ofMission16W was the fact that this was Blake’s first Cup win.
With Bourque moving on to retirement, Blake and the rest of the crew continued on. Blake would have four more pretty fantastic years in Colorado, never scoring fewer than 13 goals or 45 points (he had a pair of 50 point efforts) and generally making life easier for Patrick Roy until he retired after the 2003-04 season.
After one season following the lockout, with a cap in place and his price tag still high, Blake was back in LA because the Avalanche couldn’t afford his services any longer. Four and a quarter seasons inColoradoand gone again. Blake would have a pair of seasons withLos AngelesandSan Josebefore hanging up the skates after the 2009-10 season.
Rob Blake came toColoradoalready a star, joining a cast full of stars yet managing to stand out in every way possible. His big, booming slapshot from the point, thunderous hip checks, and constant smile will linger in the minds of Avalanche fans for a long, long time.
The images might be fleeting, but the Mile High faithful will always remember of him hoisting the Cup for the first time. And for that, Rob Blake is one of the greatest Colorado Avalanche of all-time
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