December 07, 2013

Adrian Aucoin

Adrian Aucoin was one of the must underrated defensemen of his generation.

In 17 seasons Aucoin recorded 121 goals and 278 assists in 1,108 NHL games for the Vancouver Canucks, Tampa Bay Lightning, New York Islanders, Chicago Blackhawks, Calgary Flames, Phoenix Coyotes and Columbus Blue Jackets. He was well travelled defenseman who also played for the Canadian national team in the early 1990s and won a silver medal at the 1994 Olympic games. 
Known for his heavy slap shot, Aucoin was one of the last players to use a full wooden stick. He even scored on his very first shot in his first NHL game.
But he was far more than just a heavy shooter. He was really solid if unspectacular in most aspects of the game. He was heavily relied upon by his coaches, often leading his team in ice time.
Peter Laviolette, his coach with the New York Islanders, was never afraid to overwork Aucoin. 
"It doesn't seem to affect him," Laviolette says of Aucoin's workload and the possibility that he might burn out his best defenseman. "It doesn't look like he's bothered by all those minutes. His play at the end of the game is sometimes better than it is at the start. His 40th minute may be better than his first. We've watched him, and there's no difference in his play. He absorbs all those minutes and recovers quickly."
Aucoin only seemed to thrive on all that action.
"As long as I can stay in the flow of the game, the more ice time I get, the better I play--I think most players are like that," he said.

Not that ice time was always plentiful for Aucoin.

“My father was in the military and we lived in Florida on a military base for a few years, so there wasn't much hockey,” recalled Aucoin, who eventually moved to Cold Lake , Alberta after three years in the Sunshine State . “But once we got to Alberta , there was nothing but skating all winter long. It's what everybody did. When you're that young, you just play to have fun.”
By the age of 7 the Aucoins had settled in Ottawa. Adrian continued to play the game, but mostly because all of his friends were playing. He didn't "begin to take the game seriously" until his bantam season at age 15. From there he mapped out a path that even he couldn't have imagined would work out so well.

“I think I finally realized I had a shot at playing in the NHL when I was drafted,” said Aucoin, who was selected 117 th overall in 1992 by Vancouver . “Even then, I was a fifth-rounder. I was invited to Team Canada 's junior summer training camp. I was the only college kid and I'm pretty sure I was a token add-in. But I played some of the best hockey in my career and that's when I got noticed.”

To get drafted Aucoin chose Boston University over the Ontario Hockey League. He only played at BU for one season as he jumped at the chance to play for the Canadian national team and at the 1994 Olympics where he won a silver medal.

“I really took a long route to get (to the NHL),” said Aucoin, who was drafted into the Ontario Hockey League, but chose Boston University instead. “I played an extra year of Tier 2, one year in college, going on to play with the National Team and then playing over a year in the minors…I think I obviously learned a lot in my travels. It's nice when you work hard and get rewarded.”

Michael Peca shared some nice insight on Aucoin's game:
"He logged a lot of minutes, took a regular shift, played the power play, and killed penalties. He's always had that really heavy slap shot--if you're a shot-blocker, you hate to get in front of it, and if you're a goalie, you hope the shot-blocker isn't afraid to get in front of it All he needed was an opportunity to show what he's got He had 23 goals in Vancouver, so he's proven he has some offensive ability. But I think he's also shown that he's an excellent ail-around performer."
"He's incredibly strong and has tremendous speed, which makes him tough to beat one-on-one," Peca says. "When he's down low, he's got quick feet and he's so strong that the big guys can't push him off and the little guys can't get away from him. If he was a forward, he'd be a power forward--he's exactly the type of player every team would want."
Yet Aucoin always seemed to escape a lot accolades and affection around the league. Not that he minded. He knew his teammates, coaches and peers all had the highest of respect for everything he brought to the ice.

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