Blues Continue to Add Grit to Coaching Staff

A week after the St. Louis Blues hired Darryl Sydor and Steve Ott, they hired another man who donned a sweater with the blue note on the front in his NHL career — Barret Jackman.

After Rick Wilson, Steve Thomas, Ray Bennett and Ty Conklin were fired in early May, the Blues had a number of coaching vacancies. Mike Yeo clearly wanted to bolster his staff with guys who have NHL experience. Between Sydor, Ott, and Jackman they played in 2,226 regular season games and 299 playoff games in their careers combined.

“We felt having Mike (Yeo) start his first full season with a new staff would rejuvenate the organization,” general manager Doug Armstrong said. “Mike handpicking his co-workers right from the start, the situation now, we felt the timing was right for continuing to build the foundation. I think for Mike to have the best chance for success, I want him to have full control over who he works with.”

Unmatched Grit

Most importantly, the other thing the Blues and Yeo have going for them is that there is no chance anyone in their right mind is going to mess with the St. Louis coaching staff. Jackman was the blue line enforcer for the Blues for the latter part of a decade, Ott was an absolute mad man on the ice that never met a fight he didn’t like. Then, you add Sydor who played in the league for 18 seasons and was no slouch in that department either.

Between the three bruisers, they combined for 3,412 minutes in the sin bin and a whopping 380 NHL fights. Surprisingly enough they each have all of their chicklets still intact, which will be important when they are barking out advice during practice or from the bench during games.

Talk about a gritty bunch. The Blues have been known for being one of the more physical teams in the NHL in recent years, but even with enforcer Ryan Reaves still on the roster the departures of David Backes and Ott prior to last season led St. Louis to dropping from 12th to 26th in the NHL in fight totals and going from 13th to 17th in hits per game. The re-addition of Ott to the NHL staff may re-instill that physicality Blues fans are accustomed to.

If Jackman was going to be spending time with NHL roster there would be a good chance that 1 on 1’s would consist of fighting technique rather than angles or backcheck work. Instead, Jackman will work with the team’s prospects and draft picks, whether they are still in college, juniors or the American Hockey League.

Barret Jackman Blues
Barret Jackman in 2011. (Icon SMI).

“I think the development thing is perfect for me,” Jackman said in the team’s announcement. “I have an opportunity just to focus on a couple of guys instead of a whole team. I always felt as a player that I was pretty good in helping the younger guys, and this is an opportunity to continue to do that without having to get beat up on the ice every day.”

The Familiarity Makes Sense

Ott played 122 games for the Blues in his 14-year career and was teammates with 20 of the 23 current players on the Blues roster.

“That was one of the biggest factors,” Ott said. “There was a lot of factors going into this, but the organization, I know first-hand obviously from wearing the jersey, the classiness of the St. Louis organization, the respect I have for Army and also the team on the ice. I believe in these players, and to possibly have the chance to win a Stanley Cup as now a coach would mean just as much as a player because I really do believe in this group and going forward I think that’s a really key factor.”

Steve Ott
Steve Ott in 2015, (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers).

Sydor worked with Yeo with the Houston Aeros of the AHL when the team won the league title in 2010-11 and again when Yeo was the bench boss for the Minnesota Wild from 2011-16.

“I am excited to have Darryl back on my staff,” Yeo said in a statement released by the Blues. “He was an outstanding teacher during our time in Minnesota and will add a wealth of experience and knowledge to our team.”

Sydor played his final NHL season with the Blues and the fact that he understands what it takes to win the Stanley Cup, winning two as a member of the 1998-99 Dallas Stars and the 2003-04 Tampa Bay Lightning has to be appealing for the Blues due to the fact that Sydor’s teams accomplished the feat that has eluded St. Louis in all 50 years of their existence.

The 1998-99 Stars team was coached by longtime Blues coach Ken Hitchcock and Sydor was teammates with Blues’ legend Brett Hull who is now the Executive Vice President of business development for the club.

Jackman is a long-time fan favorite who returned to St. Louis last October to sign a one-day contract and retire as a Blue. The tenacious defenseman played all but one of his 14 NHL seasons with the club.

“It’s a pretty good gig to get back into hockey after a retirement year and I’m pretty thrilled about the opportunity the Blues have given me,” Jackman said.

Looking Ahead

The new additions to the Blues Staff will certainly help fill a void that the Blues had been missing since Kirk Muller left to become associate coach with the Montreal Canadiens. Muller was highly respected among the players, and Sydor, Ott and Jackman are respected NHL veterans that bring great resumes to the table.

After a shaky start to 2016, the Blues finished strong and defeated Minnesota in round one of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. They lost to the eventual Western Conference champion Nashville Predators but with all things considered, it was a successful season. With a young NHL core, numerous talented prospects and possession of the 20th and 27th overall picks in the 2017 NHL Draft the Blues future not only looks bright but a bit more gritty than it did two weeks ago.