Greenville Swamp Rabbits Defenseman Sam Jardine: Look Past The Points

Greenville Swamp Rabbits Defenseman Sam Jardine: Look Past The Points

With 13 points in 13 games, defenseman Sam Jardine is lighting up the ECHL from the blue line. But he wants to be known for a lot more than just points.

Jan 28, 2021 by Mike Ashmore
Greenville Swamp Rabbits Defenseman Sam Jardine: Look Past The Points

Sam Jardine sees the same statistics you do.

The veteran defenseman for the Greenville Swamp Rabbits is well aware of the start he’s off to; he’s the leading point scorer among all echl blueliners thanks to an incredible 13 points in his first 13 games.

Strange as it may seem, however, the 27-year-old Alberta native would prefer you judge him on almost anything but his offensive output.

“It’s interesting, it’s a strange relationship I find with a player and points,” Jardine told FloHockey in a recent Zoom conversation.

“Just looking at it from the perspective of a coach or a general manager, obviously points are important and it means that you’re getting in on goals. But it does not tell the whole story, and it doesn’t tell the whole story about my game at all. I think a point producer is one of the last things they should talk about when they’re talking about my game. 

“Things that I’m really focused on for our team is playing hard, solid defense, moving the puck efficiently out of our own end, having efficient neutral zone regroups. Those sorts of things, I think if you do them well, then inadvertently, you might get a few lucky points along the way with a good breakout pass or something like that. So, there’s some aspects of luck that goes into all this sort of stuff. But my focus is on playing strong, sharp defensive hockey.”

It shows an incredible level of development and maturity in Jardine, a former standout at the collegiate level for the Ohio State Buckeyes, that instead of basking in the glow of his name being at the top of the stat sheet among the league’s defensemen, he’d instead point to his performance at his own end of the ice. As he alluded to — and humbly so, as he’s certainly not only just potting a few “lucky points” — his level of play on the back end is now at a level where he’s able to consistently turn that into more tangible production on the offensive side as well.

“I guess I’m a slow learner or a slow developer, so this is my sixth year pro, and things are coming into place a little bit,” he said. 

“Now, I still think that there’s a lot that my game can improve on, and I’m working on that obviously every day. There’s another level and another gear that I’d like to get to in this league, so I’m not satisfied with this early success or any of the attention that it’s brought recently.”

Jardine is certainly no stranger to receiving a lot of attention, either.

A 2011 draft pick of the Chicago Blackhawks, the 6-foot-1, 205-pounder had been back and forth between the ECHL and American Hockey League in his first four professional seasons, but finally seemed to have found his footing in the E late in the 2018-19 campaign, one in which he helped the Newfoundland Growlers all the way to a Kelly Cup.

In part, he was able to parlay that success to a trip to Europe, where he turned in a solid campaign for the EIHL’s Cardiff Devils last season, before following head coach Andrew Lord back to North America with the Swamp Rabbits.

“It has been a very interesting last two years professionally, and personally too,” Jardine said.

“Obviously, I thought that I had made a huge progression in my game playing in Toronto to begin that season and getting a bunch of American League games. That’s where I wanted to be, that’s where I expected to be. So, when I was sent down to Newfoundland, quite simply I was devastated. I was not very happy with where I was professionally when I joined that team at the beginning of that playoff season, but with that being said, it was a fantastic group of guys. I had played for (their head coach) John Snowden in Orlando the season prior, so I did know that I was landing in a situation where we had championship potential.

“So, going on that run and pulling that off was an absolute thrill. Any time you get to do something like that, and to do it with ‘Snowy’ and the guys in that locker room, it was incredibly special. At the end of the day, I had aspirations to be in the American League. That was my expectation. But, it didn’t work out to sign back on with an American League team, so that’s what made me open to try something out over in Europe, and quite frankly, ‘Lordo’ made the best pitch to go to Cardiff. I loved my time over there, and I think we would have won another championship had our season not been canceled . . . there was tons of success over there with Lordo, I built my relationship with him from a coach-player standpoint, and when the UK season was canceled and he was here in Greenville, it was the best opportunity to go somewhere I felt comfortable.”

The start to the season in Greenville was anything but comfortable for the group as a whole, however. The Swamp Rabbits lost three of their first four games before putting together a still-active streak in which they haven’t suffered a regulation loss in nine straight contests, which dates all the way back to December 26.

“It’s a strange year, but for us especially because we had so many young bodies — rookies mixed in with some old warhorses, some wily vets,” Jardine said. “So, there’s certainly a process that has to occur. We have a new coach with Lordo, we’ve got new bodies, new ownership. So, getting that chemistry and those personalities to kind of vibe and everything like that, it was going to take time. With what we’ve been able to do with this little points streak is hang around. We’re right in the thick of it, the middle of the pack in the standings, and I think that’s a good place to be all things considering with what we were up against to begin the season. We’ve had those weeks and months to develop as a group, so now let’s put it all together and start getting some regulation wins.”

The Swamp Rabbits managed what was just their second regulation win of the season in their last game, a 4-1 over the Jacksonville Icemen on Sunday, a contest in which Jardine racked up yet another assist.

While he hasn’t paid much attention to his stats, surely the same can’t be said of NHL front offices, who have surely made much closer attention to the ECHL with the AHL getting off to a later start. Jardine’s aspirations remain getting another opportunity at the next level, but in sticking with his mature mindset, he also insists it isn’t a focus moving forward as he instead hopes to continue making Greenville a playoff contender.

“For me, it’s not so much about jumping at whatever comes my way,” he said. 

“I think I’ve grown in the game as a professional long enough, and I like where I’m at here in Greenville. I love where I’m at, really. It would require a good situation, so I don’t know. We’ll see. These are interesting times, there’s a lot more that a guy looking for a call-up has to deal with now than maybe in the past; there’s quarantine rules, testing, different roster stuff that goes into all of this stuff. It’s something that, if it happens, great. But for me personally, it isn’t something that’s going to keep me up at night or something I focus on a heck of a lot. I just want to keep continue playing good hockey for the team here, and that’s all you can do.”

Mike Ashmore has 17 years of experience covering professional and college sports. You can follow him on all social media channels at @mashmore98.