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Jackman Personifies Being a Blue

by Dan O'Neill / St. Louis Blues

ST. LOUIS - If you are a sports fan in St. Louis, you know the names that are synonymous with the local teams. Musial, Brock and Gibson are immediately connected to the Cardinals ... Warner, Faulk and Bruce are part and parcel with the Rams ... to name just a few.

The Blues have their own such roster, wearers of the 'Note who have made their marks in a variety of ways. From the Plager brothers and their crowd-inciting physicality, to Brett Hull and his thunderous one-timers to Al MacInnis' 100 MPH slap shots, the hockey franchise also has its share of memorable employees during a 47-year existence.

But sometimes a 'superstar' label isn't attached, sometimes the marquee makes room for an unsung hero. The squeaky wheel gets the grease, as the saying goes. But in a sport like hockey, the quiet player can provide the oil that makes the engine run.

So it's Barret Jackman's name that is synonymous with the St. Louis Blues.

"He's been a leader ever since I've known him," said Alex Pietrangelo . "He won the Calder for a reason. He's had an unbelievable career and not only that, he's dedicated his whole career and life to the city of St. Louis and what he's given back is absolutely tremendous. "

The long-time defenseman has never been a household name like some of the aforementioned. But his contributions to his teammates, coaches, family and community are far from lost. They are legendary.

"I remember Jax's rookie year when he came in and was playing with Al (MacInnis)," said St. Louis-born Blues defenseman Chris Butler . "You kind of forget how long he's been here. He's had a heck of a career.

"Guys don't stay with one organization for that long without being a good player and even better person."

Jackman has been a Blue since the before the dawn of the 21st century. The Blues drafted the Trail, British Columbia native 17th overall in 1999, and 779 games later he's still manning his post. Jackman, Daniel and Henrik Sedin and Martin Havlat are the only active NHL players remaining from the first round of that draft.

Jackman began his NHL journey in historic fashion. In 2002-03, he collected 19 points, 190 penalty minutes and a +23 rating to capture the franchise's first and only Calder Trophy as the league's top rookie. Jackman is one of only two defensemen - Tyler Myers is the other - to win the award since 2000.

Only 10 blueliners have won the Calder Trophy since its inception, an exclusive club that features names like Brian Leetch, Denis Potvin, Ray Bourque and Bobby Orr. Among that group, only Jackman and 1938 winner Cully Dahlstrom (Chicago) have earned the recognition while scoring less than 20 points.

His work is never flashy, the rewards are rarely glamorous. But Jackman is a land line in a world of wireless connections. His approach to the game is traditional, his reliability is rare.

"He's blue collar, he's a team-first type of guy," captain David Backes said. "His role doesn't necessarily always get praised on the scoresheet or in the press, but he does a lot of great things that help us win."

The modus operandi of NHL defensemen has changed over the years. Offense has become an emphasis. Referees have enforced stricter policies concerning physical play. Jackman has found a way to survive while maintaining the pillars of his play.

"His conditioning and determination has allowed him to adjust," said Hall-of-Famer and former defensive partner Al MacInnis. "His improvement with moving the puck to the forwards quicker allows him to spend less time in the defensive zone."

Through the trials and tribulations of 13 NHL seasons, Jackman has been unabated. He's finished with 10-20 points in 11 seasons, the only exceptions being a three-point, 15-game season in 2003-04, a career-high 27 points in 2006-07 and 21 points in 2008-09.

He's been a "plus" player in all but three of his full seasons. And over the last six seasons combined he has a +49 rating, tied for 20th among all NHL defensemen in that span.

The longest tenured active athlete in St. Louis professional sports, Jackman has been climbing the Blues' games-played list for more than a decade. Earlier this season, he passed Brett Hull for third on the all-time list. Today, he moves one rung higher, one especially appropriate rung.

"You can talk all day about how great Jax is and there's a good reason for it," said Pietrangelo. "To see him keep getting these accomplishment and accolades, it's a great thing."

When the Blues face the Dallas Stars tonight at Scottrade Center, Jackman will surpass Brian Sutter for second place on the Blues' games-played list. Sutter spent his entire 12-year playing career in St. Louis, including nine seasons as a captain. The two are not only linked in longevity, they are mirrored in method.

Jackman and Sutter are two of four players in club history to have collected over 1,000 career penalty minutes. During his career, Jackman's body-sacrificing style has produced 909 hits and 1,196 blocked shots - two numbers that only nine other NHL players have reached since those stats both began tracking in 2005-06.

"You couldn't ask for a better teammate, a better leader," said Blues forward T.J. Oshie. "He's played a lot of games and gotten pretty nicked up. He's definitely a warrior in every sense of the word."

Despite the bumps and bruises, Jackman has appeared in 60 or more games in nine of his 10 full seasons (not including this year, or the lockout shortened 2012-13 season).

With his teammates, that commitment and dedication has been as valued as any 50-goal, or 100-point season ever could.

"He's one of the best teammates I've seen," said Pietrangelo. "He cares about all of us in this room. Obviously he's a good family man, great dad and just an overall good person to have in the organization. It's the reason why they've kept him around so long."

Off the ice, Jackman plays he same game. He has been active in the community since he arrived with the Blues, helping with such charitable endeavors as The Dream Factory, Delta Gamma Center for Children with Visual Impairments and Stray Rescue. Through it all, he's balanced a healthy family life with his wife Jenny and his two children - son, Cayden and daughter, Makena.

"Off the ice, he's probably one of my closer friends on the team," said Oshie. "He's kind of been like a bigger brother to me since I got here. He's a leader on and off the ice. When people want to know what to do, we ask Jax."

For some, the contributions go unnoticed, the headlines come few and far between. But for those that have paid to watch him, those that have played alongside him and those that have worked closely with him all these years, Jackman epitomizes what the franchise is all about.

"Well, I think one-team longevity is uncommon now," said Head Coach Ken Hitchcock, who recently passed Dick Irvin for fourth on the League's all-time wins list. "I don't think you see it very much anymore. It's nice to see a guy that's a good player get to stay with the same team for a long period of time.

"To have Jax here for this extended period of time, I think it helps you continuity-wise with your program. He can help a lot of the young players out. I think he's established in the community, so, there's a real identity with him and the St. Louis community."

That's why the name is synonymous with the St. Louis Blues - Barret Jackman.

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