Best Blues Player - 2003
Readers' Choice: Chris Pronger
In a season that was by turns exhilarating and frustrating for Blues fans, rookie defenseman Barret Jackman gave us all a reason to be proud at season's end. Yes, the Calder Trophy (denoting "Best Rookie") was a nice acknowledgment of Jackman's talent and went a little way toward easing the pain of another early playoff exit, but the real thrill is knowing Jackman stands to be even better next year. Jackman played all 82 games, he led his team in plus-minus with a solid plus-23, and he exhibited the tenacity and hard-nosed play of a bygone-era of hockey, combined with great defensive skills and a level head. Out of his 190 penalty minutes (second on the team behind Reed Low's 234), only a handful came from rookie mistakes; the rest were meted out because of his willingness to hit hard and never give an inch to an encroaching forward -- and for his brutal skill with his dukes. Jackman's masterful goading of perennial pain-in-the-ass Owen Nolan marks the beginning of a St. Louis legend. If the Blues are serious about winning, they'll build a team around the Jackman ideal: Play smart, play hard, hit harder and never back down.