|In his Blues debut on Feb. 26, Janssen (right) hits Coyotes defenseman Ed Jovanovski. (Photo by Mark Buckner).
Ask Cam Janssen about his childhood and it won’t be long before he starts rambling about the St. Louis Blues.
“(I remember) coming to these games, watching my dad and his buddies act like fools in the stands,” Janssen said, recalling the memories of the early-to-mid-90’s. “Cruising around the rink, causing trouble, doing this, doing that. Watching the game, loving the fights.
“It was awesome being a Blues fan.”
Janssen grew up in Eureka, MO, a town just 30 miles west of downtown St. Louis. Attending hockey games was nothing new for him, and perhaps that’s how his interest in hockey expanded. He played all kinds of sports, but hockey seemed to call to him more than anything else.
So after clawing through the Canadian juniors, Janssen was drafted by the New Jersey Devils in the 2002 NHL Draft (sixth round, 117th overall). He became the first locally-trained St. Louis-born player to make it to the NHL.
“I thought Paul and Yan (Stastny) were from St. Louis, but they’re from Quebec, so that doesn’t count,” Janssen joked. “So I am
the first guy. It’s exciting, I think. But to tell you the truth, I don’t think about that too much as far as going out there and trying to play.”
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Janssen will be expected to do more than just drop the gloves. John Davidson believes Janssen can play a big role in creating energy.
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Realizing that he wouldn’t make a career in the NHL on skill alone, Janssen honed his game with the Devils, filling in as an energy winger that hit hard, stood up for his teammates and dropped the gloves when necessary. He spent two-plus seasons in New Jersey before being traded to the Blues early on Feb. 26.
That morning, Devils President and General Manager Lou Lamoriello delivered the news.
“He didn’t even tell me (where I was going),” Janssen said. “He just said I’d be happy, and I knew right away. (St. Louis) is the only place I’d be happy.
“They have a great team over there, all those guys are great players,” Janssen said of his former teammates, citing names like Martin Brodeur, Patrick Elias and Brian Gionta. “It was good while I was there, but I just happened to move on. I’m in a better place now. I feel comfortable and I’m ready to go.”
Janssen brings his energy-guy role to St. Louis, a team of which he grew up a big fan. In his words, he’ll “crash and bang” and “play like D.J. King, just three inches shorter.”
|Janssen was a favorite in New Jersey, dropping his gloves at a moment's notice. (Getty Images). |
Blues President John Davidson thinks he has even more to offer.
“This conference is big, it’s tough. You need energy people and Cam can provide that,” Davidson said. “I know some people think he’s just a guy who’s going to drop his gloves and get into scraps, but he’s a lot more than that. You look at all these situations, it’s a fit for us.”
Perhaps unfortunately for Janssen, he’ll bear the burden of being a player traded for a long-time fan favorite in defenseman Bryce Salvador, who had been part of the Blues organization since 1996. With a long-term contract in doubt, the Blues felt that trading Salvador before he could become an unrestricted free agent would be beneficial to the team in the long run.
“I skate with (Salvador) in the summer time. I know him personally, he’s a great guy,” Janssen said. “They love him here and he was a hell of a player. I’m not going to be able to fill his shoes by any means, but I’ve got my job to do and do it well.”
“Bryce was a guy that gave us heart and soul here for a long period of time,” Davidson added. “It’s a very difficult decision that he had to go through when we make these decisions, (but) we’re trying to move forward as a franchise.”
And moving forward, Janssen is a piece of the puzzle.
“It’s a tough job, but I love it,” Janssen said, discussing his role with the Blues. “All the attention is on you, it’s scary and tough. It’s part of my role, and I couldn’t ask for a better job.”