Every so often, at the mention Jason Blake, an Isles fan will spout off on how selfish he was with the puck. How he was a lockerroom cancer. How he was this. How he was that. What I will always recall of Blake, despite perhaps a mixed-bag of attributes, is that he was a 4th liner who made himself into a top 2 line player by sheer will over the course of several years. That in itself is a tremendous accomplishment. By virtue of this self-focus, he also perhaps was too about himself, and caused some friction perhaps with the lockerroom...and certainly with fans. However, anyone who can sit there and boo tonight simply misses the point.
There was no doubt that Jason Blake wanted to remain an Islander. But after last year's public display, and by it's own merit, another facet of that self-absorbed demanor, it seemed to rub fans, and certainly GM Garth Snow the wrong way. Further this path elsewhere seemed to make itself when it was rumored he wanted 4 years. It became a rapid progression to what was becoming clear: despite words about wanting to stay, each thing seemed to make his path elsewhere smoother. Where that chip on the shoulder and issues of self-worth, after attaining so much, then became the exact issue to why the Isles really did not come up to bat when it became time to negotiate. That mixed-bag reared its ugly head and those flaw were exemplified, even over the fact he had 40 goals.
So, instead, Toronto came up to bat, offering another large multi-year deal which could further saddle them with aging vets at top price, as still was sinking lower in the standings with this backwards philosophy in the last few years. Jason Blake quickly found out, like many already knew, the grass is not always greener on the other side, and that inner-drive that drove him elsewhere, suddenly had him realize that . . . well, perhaps he erred in his decision.
So it goes.
But, to boo a man who only put points on a board . . . on some horrific teams and times, mind you, who did what many simply CANNOT do, is simply stupifying. Jason Blake didn't leave Long Island in the dust. Isles management seemed to balk at the cost and the negotiations seemed to unravel soon after the season ended. It took two to tango, and it took two to have Jason Blake skate elsewhere. Jason Blake was Jason Blake. Isles made a decision not to pursue of smooth the frays that were developing at last season's end. So, the bed was made.
As Greg Logan, of Newsday, said best just the other day:
"If six seasons of hustle and passion while wearing the Islanders' colors wasn't enough to endear him to local fans, surely they will show some compassion for a player who earlier this season was diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia."
You can never please the most fickle of fans. But remember that this man made you cheer when there were not much to cheer about.
Just my humble opinion on Jason Blake. A man who I will always have mixed-feeling over. Who I said wasn't coming back. But still deserves my cheers if I was there tonight. He deserves appreciation, because I don't know many players who can will themselves to be more than they are these days. Do you? Maybe a handful.
From the sunny shore of West Palm Beach . . .