Nashville Predators 3rd Defensive Pairing is a perfect fit for Barrett Jackman.
In an off-season that was largely devoted to signing the multitude of the Nashville Predators pending free agents to new contracts, Dave Poile’s signing of Barrett Jackman to a two-year $4 million contract was a largely unappreciated move at the time.
A career St. Louis Blue, Jackman wasn’t given the opportunity to re-sign with the team that had selected him 17th overall in the 1999 NHL Entry Draft and Dave Poile wasted no time adding the gritty veteran to the Predators roster to round out Nashville’s already formidable defensive depth. Now after a year of wearing the Predators gold, Jackman had a solid, if subtle, impact on the team and in particular its younger defenders. Let’s take a look.
Experience Makes a Difference.
Let’s face it, being a bottom pairing defenseman is largely a thankless role. It’s a position that is typically reserved for aging players that have seen better days or for young defensemen who haven’t earned the playing time that comes with being a Top 4 defender. While it’s fair to say that Jackman is beyond the best days of his career, he definitely didn’t look a player that has lost his competitive edge this season.
Between injuries and the occasional benching, Jackman appeared in 71 regular season games and lived up to his reputation for hard-hitting and gritty play by racking up a team-high 73 penalty minutes in the process. Even when paired with younger defensemen like Seth Jones or Anthony Bitetto, Jackman had no issues keeping up with the much younger players on both ends of the ice.
It should probably be said that Jackman was most valuable to this team when he was paired with a more inexperienced defenseman, most notably Seth Jones, and later Anthony Bitetto. As a former Calder Trophy winner, Jackman had an outstanding start to his NHL career and has long since become a defensive specialist and is passing that onto the next generation of Nashville defenders.
By the Stats
For those of you that are newer to advanced stats in hockey, much like myself, I’ve tried to find the best example I could for showing just how much of an impact Barrett Jackman had when he played alongside Seth Jones.
This is just a simple way to show how productive the Jackman and Jones pairing was when averaged over a 60-minute regulation game. At a 47.8% goals for percentage, you can quickly see that Jackman and Jones were actually outscored, if only slightly, in their 481:19 minutes played together in the 2016 season.
Even though Jones and Jackman were outproduced, they were still very good at limiting the opponents offense whenever they were on the ice and that’s supported by their strong Corsi For Percentage. At 59.9%, Jones and Jackman were fairly dominant at controlling the puck and out-chancing their opponents although, unfortunately, they weren’t quite as successful when it came to scoring goals. It’s called Puck Luck for a reason.
Goals For Vs. Goals Against
Now notice the glaring difference between Seth’s GF60/GA60 stat line from when he was paired with Barrett Jackman and when they were separated. While Jones scored at a significantly higher rate without a more defensively minded partner to play with, his offensive gains were quickly negated by his defensive losses as his goals against stat line nearly doubled.
To be fair, Seth’s individual numbers from this season include his time with the Columbus Blues Jackets after the blockbuster Ryan Johansen trade and, perhaps unfairly, reflect his new role as big minutes, number one defenseman, on a team that struggled defensively all season long. Slightly skewed numbers aside, it’s very easy to see that Seth Jones was a much more capable player while he was paired with Barret Jackman on the Nashville Predators.
1 goals, 4 assists, +1, 76 PIM, 100 hits, 86 blocks, 13:51 Time on ice average.
Jackman has never been an offensively minded player but is still thriving as a defensive specialist even at this stage in his career. One of the key differences between his years in St. Louis and now here in Nashville is that Barrett is able to take on a much smaller role and still be allowed to play his style of game without compromising the team’s chances of victory.
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With a career average of 20:23 (TOI), Top 4 minutes in most situations, the much less strenuous 13:51 (TOI) he played in his first year in Nashville was surely a welcome assignment for the rugged veteran. It was a win-win scenario for both sides; Jackman was given enough time each night to wear down the opposition with his hard-hitting style of play while still avoiding taking costly penalties. His young defensive partners had the benefit of playing with an extremely experienced NHL veteran of 13 years and over 800 games played and the numbers show, that by a clear margin, having the rookies paired with Jackman was a huge benefit to their level of play.
Final Grade: B
Reliable. Reliable. Reliable. That’s the best way to describe Barrett Jackman.
Signing “Old Jack” to a two year deal for a very affordable price isn’t exactly a free agency home run by GM David Poile, but it was a very good depth signing that was really undervalued or even criticized by many before the ink was even dry on the contract and Jackman would later show that he still had plenty left to offer to any team that wanted him.
I really wanted to give him a higher grade but his contributions to the team, although mostly positive, were limited by his playing time. Even with his diminished minutes, Jackman is a welcome addition to the team and contributes in many ways that won’t show up on a scoresheet.
Hopefully, we’ll see more of the same from Barrett Jackman next season, most likely playing alongside his latest defensive partner in Anthony Bitetto, and giving the young players the insight they need to have a successful career in the NHL.