Monday, February 16, 2015

Jackman set to take sole possession of second

Defenseman to pass Brian Sutter for games played 
in franchise history, showing no signs of slowing down

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- Entering the 2014-15 season, the list was minimal for Blues defenseman Barret Jackman.

However, the names are great in Blues history.

Jackman, who came into his 13th season (12th full) fourth on the Blues' all-time games played list at 723, passed Brett Hull for third, and on Tuesday when the Blues host the Dallas Stars, Jackman will sit alone in second place with only Bernie Federko left in his sights.

Jackman has a ways to go to catch Federko (927), but when Jackman plays in his 780th NHL game Tuesday, it elevates him up another notch among the ranks of some of the greats in team history.
Barret Jackman

"Guys like 'Barc' and Bobby Plager, Garry Unger, Brett Hull and Brian Sutter, it's pretty special and something I don't take lightly," said Jackman, the Blues' No. 1 pick (17th overall) in 1999. "... Fifteen years ago, I didn't think I'd be calling St. Louis, Missouri my home. I've matured in the Bluenote and grown as a man. I've got my own family now. I owe a lot of what I have to the city of St. Louis and the Blues organization."

Jackman, a Trail, British Columbia native who has a goal and 12 points in 56 games this season and 27 goals and 178 points in his career, is one of the elder players in the locker room, and has the appreciation and respect from his teammates and coaches because of his playing style and perseverance.

It's the only way he knows how to play and a style that hasn't changed since his NHL debut in 2001.

"Yeah ... well he deserves it," coach Ken Hitchcock said of Jackman. "He's gone through the ups and downs, and mostly downs and ups now. He's been still hanging in there. You've got to really admire a guy that does the things he does because he plays the same whether at the start or end of a hockey game. It's pretty impressive.

"... I quite frankly think he plays in games where most players don't play in. I think from an injury standpoint, from a wear and tear standpoint, he plays when most people don't play. I think that's what's allowed him to play as long as he has because he plays a robust style that for me, you can't stay healthy in the league very long that way. From an extended period of time, you're going to get hurt, you're going to get injured, but man, he's been able to sustain it because he's just flat tough. He's a tough guy and he's a throwback where he plays at 80 percent and most guys wouldn't be playing. He finds a way to get in the lineup."

Said captain David Backes: "He does everything the right way. He's a guy that's blue collar, he's a team-first type of guy. He's been here longer than I have, but he's been here for every day that I've been here and you get to watch a guy like that pour it all on the ice, step up for teammates, do all the things that especially in his role, don't all get praised on the scoresheet or in the press, but he does a lot of great things to help us win. He's done it for the second-most games in franchise history and that's quite a feat. Now he's staring down Bernie in sight."

Jackman, who is one of the Blues' assistant captains, brings a calming influence in a room filled with players who are learning to consistently win and placed on a high pedestal.

Jackman has been through many high marks, then the low marks -- including playing for a last-place team in 2005-06 -- following the lockout of 2004-05 and once again, on a Blues team among the top teams that compete on a high level.

"I think he's been a calming influence on everyone," teammate and defensive partner Ian Cole said. "Obviously me being his partner, 100 percent. But certainly from forwards, D's, doesn't matter; coaching  staff ... he's not afraid to say, 'Everyone relax,' even coaches. He'll say, 'Hang on, we're winning the game, everyone relax, stop freaking out. We're still winning by two goals. Everyone just relax for a second.' The only way you're put in a situation where you say something like that, to have that kind of clout where they listen to you is playing 779 games in the same organization.

"Very rarely do you see a player, especially in the era that we're playing in right now, where a guy plays in 779 games in how many years, (13)? That's playing a lot of games in not a lot of years and then for the same organization, too. It really speaks to the kind of loyalty, the kind of hold that this city has on 'Jax' and what kind of loyalty 'Jax' has to this town."

To be able to play as many games with the one and only organization you've known is a rare feat anymore in today's game. The feat gives it much more meaning.

"It's pretty special," Jackman said. "I've seen a lot of friends, close friends come and go and a lot of high-profile guys move along. I really try and pour my heart and soul into what the Bluenote is and try and pass those messages along. I'm very proud to be here and carry on the legacy that a lot of the alumni have passed along."
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues defenseman Barret Jackman tied Brian Sutter with
his 779th career game in a Blues uniform here Sunday at
Florida. Jackman will pass Sutter on Tuesday at home.

"It's something special," Backes said. "It doesn't happen all the time in sports these days. He's found a St. Louis girl, married her (Jenny) and they've got two kids and set up here. There's something to be said about the loyalty in both directions that that's been able to be done. Hopefully he can play a few more years, finish his career off just playing as a Blue and one of those guys you know will stick around and represent the organization well and alumni as well in town. You can't say enough good things about his character."

Jackman, whose three-year, $9.5 million contract expires this summer when he can be an unrestricted free agent, hopes to continue his career here. He's been injury-free and will turn 34 on March 5 but shows no signs of calling it a career any time soon.

Backes joked: "He's old, yeah. He'll admit it ... he's old; there's no other way to say that. But he's got a young spirit and that carries him through the day."

"A couple years ago, I felt a little bit older when I was one of the only guys at 30, but now 'Backs' is 30 and 'Steener' and those guys aren't far behind me," Jackman said. "Definitely a couple years older, but I still feel like I'm keeping up with the young bucks and still having fun."

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