Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Blue-collared Jackman epitomizes Blues, St. Louis

Defenseman has played entire career here,
would love to finish here with Cup in hand

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- Barret Jackman sat in his locker stall at the Blues' practice facility at St. Louis Mills on Tuesday, reflecting on what seems like a blur.

Only 30 years old, Jackman has seen many ups and downs during his nine-year career in the NHL -- all with the Blues. So as the Blues' defenseman, a native of Trail British Columbia, begins his 10th season with the franchise in what possibly could be his last, it's easy to reflect on much that has happened during a career that has been steady-solid since Day 1.
(Getty Images)
Barret Jackman, the 17th overall pick in 1999, has spent his entire playing career in a Blues uniform.

"It's been a quick 10 years," said Jackman, who at 517 games played is 13th on the Blues' all-time games-played leaders. "You look back and I was the youngest guy on the team (in 2002) by four or five years (during) my first year and now I'm one of the older guys. I don't know when that changed, but it just kind of flip-flopped three or four years ago.

"It's so enjoyable. I've loved every one of the guys that I've played with. They've all been great guys, great in the community and great chemistry within the locker room. Obviously the success hasn't always been there, but the joy for the game will always be there."

Players get shuffled around the league on a regular basis these days. It's a rarity that one player sticks with one franchise throughout one's career. Jackman is the exception to the rule. He's even done what "The Great One" Wayne Gretzky couldn't even accomplish.

"It definitely shows that you have some importance to the team and some value," Jackman said. "I definitely take pride in playing for St. Louis. I'm very deeply rooted in the community. You feel comfortable and you want to do well."

Jackman broke into the league and learned from some of the greatest. From teammates Al MacInnis to Chris Pronger to coaches Joel Quenneville, Jimmy Roberts, Mike Kitchen and currently assistant coach Brad Shaw, the 6-foot, 230-pound Jackman learned under some of the best and has paid dividends as the Blues' first-round pick (17th overall) in 1999.

"I've learned so much and I'm still learning," said Jackman, who's in the last year of a four-year, $14.5 million contract. "Especially Shawsie, he's a great teacher and has so much knowledge for the game. I'm still learning along with the younger guys because each year brings different situations that maybe you hadn't seen before."

Jackman, one of the leaders of the team on and off the ice, now is doing the mentoring. He has the job of bringing along some of the bright and talented Blues future stars, including Alex Pietrangelo, Kevin Shattenkirk, Nikita Nikitin and Ian Cole.

"It's funny when we (Shattenkirk and Chris Stewart) came here, certain guys have that kind of control over the locker room," Shattenkirk said. "When Jacks stands up to talk to the guys and wants to convey his message to the team, everyone stops what they're doing and listens. Not too many guys have that. I think that kind of shows what a true leader is. Most importantly, it comes down to everyone respects him. On and off the ice, he's a great teammate. He does a ton for the community and for someone like me, that's someone who I aspire to be.

"He's a breeze to play with. It's pretty easy to go out there, especially playing with him knowing that you have such a reliable guy back there. He's hard on the puck. As far as 1-on-1 battles go, his tenacity is tremendous. He's fearless. He blocks shots and makes great plays out there that many people might look past."

Jackman's not going to woo anyone with his offensive prowess (19 goals and 107 assists in his career), but he will make his presence felt one way or the other. He'll certainly be felt physically.

"In any situation regardless of experience levels of the coach, you need guys who understand how the game is supposed to be played, how the room is supposed to operate, what it means to be a pro, what it means to be a good teammate," Blues coach Davis Payne said. "Jacks understands all of that. He's been a great example of that for our guys.

"He's still a guy that's difficult to play against. In those battle situations, he's kind of a miserable guy to go up against. Great on the PK, willing to block shots, sacrifice himself, play hurt ... all of these things, you get a lot of mileage out of the rest of your club when you have that kind of example. With him having the ability to go up against physical players and to deal with that, we feel good about it. Do we feel he's going to be a 22-minute guy? Probably not. But in the situations we're going to put him in, we feel he's very well suited for."

Jackman, who is the consummate teammate and plays through pain, has taken flak from fans during his time here for various reasons. But he always seems to speak of his fondness for Blues fans, their desire and passion. He likes the direction the team took this past summer and feels like he can be a big part of what has the potential to be a great season and hopes the fans get behind the current movement.

"There's huge potential. Being a smaller market team, I don't think a lot of our big-name guys have the recognition that they deserve around the league," Jackman said. "We're fine with that. We're a hard-working, blue-collar team just like St. Louis is kind of built around. The depth, the experience, the youth and the excitement is second to none in the league."
(Getty Images)
Blues defenseman Barret Jackman (5) battles former teammate Erik
Johnson in a game last season. Jackman is 13th on the all-time games
played list with the Blues at 517.

Not that Jackman is entering the twilight of his career, but when asked the obvious question of what drives him most, Jackman offered the most obvious answer.

"The Stanley Cup," he said. "I've never made it past the second round of the playoffs and that's something that's really a huge goal. Even some of the guys that are new to the team have Stanley Cups. I'd love to be one of those guys.

"You talk to some players that have gone their entire career, 18 years ... whatever without playing in the Stanley Cup finals and having a chance to get that ring. Every year, it's special and every year your goal is to win the Cup because you never know how many more you're going to have left."

Added Payne, "He approaches the game the right way. That mentality of team-first, that mentality of sticking together, that mentality of sacrificing yourself for the better of the team. That's what we're really talking about here."

Jackman enters the same situation as that of former captain Eric Brewer, who entered last season in the final year of his contract. Jackman and his wife Jenny have a son (Cayden) and another child along the way. Jenny's from St. Louis and the Jackmans, who founded Barret's Buddies, a program associated with stray rescue to help neglected and abused animals, would love to stay in St. Louis beyond this year and further.

"If the situation's right for Doug Armstrong and the team and there's a fit for me, I would love to be in St. Louis," Jackman said. "But we've got a lot of games to play this year before things are settled and we'll see where that goes.

"I'm a family man now. ... It's definitely been a topic of conversation a few times. It's nothing that you could push the envelope on. Really on both sides, they don't know what the future's going to hold with me in St. Louis. We'll talk at the appropriate time with Army about it."

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