ST. LOUIS — The name Barret Jackman rarely is the first that comes to mind when Blues fans list their team’s best or most memorable players. But keep going down the list and just about everyone will mention the veteran defenseman who has become nearly as much of a staple in St. Louis as the Arch and toasted ravioli.
Jackman is the kind of player and person who always is thought of fondly by friends and teammates, even if he doesn’t do a lot to stand out.
One exception to that rule came his rookie season in 2003, when Jackman became the first and only Blue ever to win the Calder Trophy. Another came Tuesday night, when he earned a standing ovation in the first period of his 780th career game, surpassing former captain Brian Sutter for second on the franchise’s all-time list.
"I think to do it with one team is really impressive nowadays with the way things work and salary caps and all sorts of stuff," says defenseman Jay Bouwmeester, who has played the last 145 of his 895 career games with St. Louis. "But I think it speaks more to the person he is. He’s a character guy, and those are the guys that you really want to build your team and stick around."
Jackman recalls hearing trade rumors throughout his career, including shortly after the Blues took him with the 17th pick of the 1999 draft. Instead, they kept him around through five different coaches, and his steady play contributed to five playoff appearances, with a sixth looking imminent this season.
He still hasn’t matched his +23 rating as a rookie, but the respect and recognition for his longevity and consistency continue to pile up. No one needs to tell Jackman what an honor it is to be on a list ahead of forwards Sutter, Brett Hull and Garry Unger, as well as fellow defensemen Al MacInnis and Bobby and Barclay Plager.
The three forwards are all in the top four for goals and points, along with Bernie Federko, the franchise leader with 927 games played. Federko, MacInnis and Hull all have statues outside Scottrade Center.
"It was pretty special, playing the game and the whole day," Jackman says. "The couple days leading up to it was a lot of well-wishes and a lot of warm responses, and I topped it off with a standing ovation."
Jackman won’t make it on a statue or see his name on any of those other individual lists, except the one for penalty minutes. He even thrilled the crowd late in the third period by initiating a prolonged fight with Dallas’ Antoine Roussel, adding five more to his total of 1,020, good for fourth in franchise history.
Ryan Reaves says it’s just another example of how Jackman looks out for his teammates any way he can, even at the age of 33. Coach Ken Hitchcock calls Jackman and T.J. Oshie the conscience of the team, and when they speak, other players listen.
"He’s maybe not the fastest guy, but what he lacks maybe in speed he definitely makes up for it in smarts," Reaves says. "He’s smart with his body and a guy like that, he’s really hard to get rid of when he’s so consistently smart in every aspect."
The Blues kept him through two stoppages and countless rule changes, some of which forced Jackman to adapt his game to survive. He says the league keeps getting younger, faster and stronger, but he keeps finding ways to thrive.
"He plays a simple, solid defensive game which a lot of people don’t appreciate," Bouwmeester says. "But it doesn’t go unnoticed around here."
Jackman has no intentions of slowing down, and he credits work in the summer for his ability to maintain his high level of skating and conditioning. Federko has said during broadcasts on FOX Sports Midwest that he’d like to see the British Columbia native reach 1,000 games, a milestone Jackman could reach by the 2017-18 season if he keeps up his current pace.
Those accomplishments prove franchise greats and the best representatives of the Blues aren’t only the ones with the most talent or goals. Just ask Petteri Lindbohm, the 21-year-old defenseman who got called up again from the American Hockey League and rejoined the team Wednesday.
"What (Jackman) does every day in practice, in the locker room, outside the locker room, he’s a role model for me," Lindbohm says. "Of course, I sometimes (talk to him), but it’s more like I try to watch what he’s doing, try to follow his example."
That’s the kind of priceless value the Blues don’t want to lose.