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Grading the Islanders: Tim Jackman, de facto enforcer

With 191 NHL games under his belt, Tim Jackman has now qualified for an NHL pension (160 games is the threshold). Bonus: If he sticks for another season and 40 more games, he'll eclipse the career length of fellow "Jackman" (no relation), Ric, the 5th overall pick by Dallas in the 1996 entry draft.

Whether the still-active but unrestricted free agent Jackman gets a chance to do that with the Islanders, a team that has retained an enforcer (Trevor Gillies on a two-way deal) and is likely to look to improve via depth upgrades, is a question we'll see answered in the next couple of months.

It's tough for a fourth-liner to stick in today's NHL, with inexpensive youth constantly pushing up from below. That Jackman has made it three seasons and 159 games with the same NHL club, his fourth, is a credit to the North Dakotan. And while his skillset is fairly circumscribed, the broken orbital bone that knocked him out for two months -- a pretty gruesome injury that forced him to wear a full cage when he returned -- may have actually freed Jackman to rediscover the non-enforcer side of his game.

That's right: You probably see these report cards for fourth-liners as no-brainers, but the fun for me is finding ways to get you, with summer beckoning, to debate the merits of such players. So remind yourself that Jackman is not exactly an enforcer, but rather a big forward with 95 AHL goals to his name who happened to fight more because no one else would.

Tim Jackman

#28 / Right Wing / New York Islanders



Nov 14, 1981



6.6* (*3.3 on 5-pt. scale)

Sorry, I guess you have to be the enforcer again.

In the 19 games after returning from his injury (a punch by Matt Carkner nicely avenged by Gillies), Jackman was +1 (including a minus-3 mulligan in the post-deadline Atlanta debacle) and put up 6 points (2G, 4A). Not heady stuff by any means, but in that period we glimpsed Jackman the checker, which is a little more useful than Jackman the guy who is enforcer by default.

Jackman is 6'4" and was a decent offensive contributor in college with Minnesota State-Mankato, which is why he was Columbus' 38th overall pick in 2001. I point all this out not to pretend that Jackman is a must-keep asset, but rather to remind myself that he was originally scheduled to do something else. He ended up fighting more because -- as so many in the role do -- there was no one else to do it and it was one way of sticking around on the roster.

At age 28 (29 in November), I hardly expect him to develop a new dimension. However, those last 19 games, when he was freed from the specter of being the only guy in the lineup to answer opponents' meatheads in punch-throwing contests, I did see a side of him I'd forgotten: He can move around alright out there, he obviously is one of those jump-on-the-grenade-for-you teammates, and he's not some huge defensive liability. In other words, he's not just some goon.

Since fourth liners move on like journeymen, I suspect we won't see him around again, but you know what? Youth movement and my own desire for wholesale upgrade aside, I ... I wouldn't mind having his big body and big heart back.

GP G A P +/- PIM TOI PKtoi Hits Fight Card Rel. +/-
Corsi Rel QoC
2009-10 - Tim Jackman 54 4 5 9 -4 98 9:38 0:14 114 3-5-2 8th of 14 2nd of 14 51 7.8

Play around with the rate stats at Behind the Net, and you find this past season he was actually middle of the pack among Isles forwards defensively, hardly a defensive drain and hardly blessed with great linemates to prop him up. For a guy who gets 10 minutes and has to start most of his shifts in the defensive or neutral zone, he did his job alright: Get the puck out, don't let them score.

That's hardly a rare or complex skill even at the NHL level, but sometimes it's nice having a guy there who knows that's his role and keeps it simple, rather than a guy who is still distracted by illusions that he ought to be playing with John Tavares so he can score 15 goals. If you have an opening for a fourth line/pressbox/10-minute guy, why not have him be 6'4", able to hold his own and willing to fight when things get crazy? (I realize the counterargument is, why not just get better players? But work with me here.)

So goes my "take a second look" case for Tim Jackman, a guy I figure most assume will be moving on like some such Hilbert. If that's the case, I for one would thank him for time served, in a thankless "whatever the team needs" role.

The Poem

Jax took one for the team
When Carkner suckered him out of nowhere
Two months of healing followed
And a retro full-face cage to wear

Life's rough in the bottom-six
With no one else to take the punches
Minutes parceled out like bread rations
Goals and glory rare as free lunches

The Grade

So you can ignore my defense attorney's case for Jackman's season, but regardless grade him on how well he fulfilled your (likely modest) preseason expectations.