“When we signed Rob Blake, we wanted Rob Blake to be Rob Blake. We didn’t need him to be a mentor or a king for all the young princes. We needed him to be Rob Blake. That’s all we wanted.”- Todd McLellan
Two years and two days ago, the San Jose Sharks lost veteran Rob Blake to retirement. Blake played a bulky role on the team's blue line, and his absence left a gaping hole.
Although the Sharks replaced Blake statistically-- they maintained a solid goals against average over the last two seasons-- they missed icing a legitimate minute-eating, two-way defender. However, GM Doug Wilson recently took strides in filling that gap by acquiring the rights to impending unrestricted free agent Brad Stuart.
During the regular season, Stuart announced that he would likely leave Detroit and finish off his career closer to his family in San Jose. Even though Stuart grew up in Alberta, he made his home in Northern California after spending his first six seasons in black and teal.
Ideally, he wanted to play on the West Coast for a Stanley Cup contender. Hopefully with him patrolling the blue line, the Sharks can return to those ranks.
"It's nice to know they're excited to have a chance to get me back,'' Stuart said in his post-trade conference call. ''I feel the same way. Hopefully we can work it out."
Adding Stuart to the blue line would certainly bolster the Sharks' chances of contending. Three of their important defenders Dan Boyle, Douglas Murray, and Brent Burns struggled last season for a multitude of reasons. Boyle played through broken appendages, Murray missed 22 games with a concussion, and Burns experienced growing pains in a new system. But with Stuart back in the mix, those players would have less responsibility.
With 13 professional seasons under his belt, Stuart has some tread on his blades. He won't score double digit goals or approach 40 points. He might not even get power play time for that matter. He will, however, bring experience, grit, and reliability to a core that sorely needs those intangibles.
Both parties signing on the bottom line seems inevitable, as does a return to respectability. The Sharks failed to win the Pacific Division for the first time since 2006-2007 and saw both the Phoenix Coyotes and Los Angeles Kings succeed after their first round exit. Opposed to sitting back and hoping for internal improvement, Wilson was both aggressive and proactive. The last thing they wanted was to see a player like Stuart sign in LA, Arizona or Anaheim.
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