Cracknell steering the Rivermen

by Ben Bean || AHL On The Beat Archive

When the Peoria Rivermen set sail on a new season back in October, it was a ship without a captain.

Four straight losses to start the year had set the ship adrift, and a crew of six veterans was charged with the task of putting it back on course.

The rotating cast of alternate captains guided the team to a sub-.500 record with the journey nearing its halfway point. That’s when Rivermen head coach Jared Bednar put Adam Cracknell at the controls.

“You go through tough times as a team and you see who your leaders are, who steps up,” said Bednar. “Adam Cracknell has kept his game at a high level more consistently than anyone, and you need that.”

“It’s a huge honor. Anytime you get named captain of a team you have to take pride in that,” explained Cracknell. “You have to put a lot of pressure on yourself to perform every night and every practice. You have to lead by example and everyone else will hopefully follow.”

With career highs in every offensive category, Cracknell has set the bar high with his example and the team has responded. The Rivermen have put together a record of 23-12-1-0 since Cracknell was named captain back in December and the ship is not slowing down.

“I’m more of a role player this year. I know I have to put up points to help the team win,” said Cracknell, who has recorded 24 points in his last 22 contests. “I took it upon myself to keep it simple and execute more and I’m getting rewarded with goals and assists.”

Cracknell was the right man for the job. His positive attitude along with his experience are just a few qualities that make Cracknell the ideal captain for the Rivermen.

“Staying positive is a big thing. Guys go through slumps with no points. I’ve been there. Points are a huge thing for a guys confidence,” Cracknell said. “When you see players go through a slump you just have to stay positive and tell them to work hard and keep it simple. Sometimes trying to do too much isn’t the way to go.”

The 26-year-old isn’t new to the captaincy role. He was captained the Kootenay Ice of the Western Hockey League in 2005, a team that took Cracknell as a walk-on player in 2002.

Hard work has brought Cracknell a long way, from one of the last picks of the 2004 draft (279th overall by Calgary) to the NHL. After bouncing back and forth between the ECHL and AHL for nearly 300 games to start his career, Cracknell cracked the St. Louis Blues roster last season and played in 24 games.

When it comes to the ultimate goal of sticking in the NHL, Cracknell is being patient.

“I played in all the leagues to get up here. I know it just takes hard work and the time has to be right,” said Cracknell. “St. Louis gave me a chance to play in the AHL. I owe a lot to them. I have to keep working hard down here because this is my team now. You just have to understand where you’re at and what organization you’re with.”

With two more NHL games thrown in this year, that’s enough time for him to take notice of some of the other leaders in the St. Louis Blues organization.

“When I was up I watched guys like [David] Backes and [Barret] Jackman and how they handled the room,” Cracknell explained. “Sometimes you don’t have to say anything to get the team going. They lead by example but if something had to be said or dealt with they handled it.”

The Rivermen ship is now on course with its sight set clearly on the Calder Cup Playoffs. It’s a place the Rivermen have only been three times in their first six seasons, and they’ve only been short trips with each stint ending after only one round. But with Cracknell at the wheel, and playing the best hockey of his career, he may lead the Rivermen into deep, uncharted waters.