Aucoin Knows His Role
The 17-year NHL veteran knows where he fits in with the Blue Jackets, and his experience will be valuable to the club's youngsters
Adrian Aucoin has been around long enough to know that, as he approaches age 39, his name isn't going to garner the spotlight or be found above the fold.
And quite frankly, that's perfectly fine with him.
The past week has been fulfilling for the longtime NHL blueliner, who battled injuries during the Phoenix Coyotes' playoff run this spring and was forced to miss the tail end of their postseason. He had spent the past three years in the desert, tutoring the club's emerging defensemen like Oliver Ekman-Larsson, David Rundblad and being a mentor to All-Star Keith Yandle.
As business sometimes transpires, two parties went their separate ways in free agency, but Aucoin's phone wasn't dormant for long. The Blue Jackets made the first call to his agent shortly after noon (E.T.) on July 1, and though other offers trickled in throughout the day, he found the situation in Columbus to be the most palatable for this stage in his career.
"I realistically know where I'm at as far as depth charts go, and I know a lot of teams are looking to shore up their restricted free agents and the big unrestricted defensemen were out there," Aucoin told BlueJackets.com. "I didn't really expect to get anything concrete right away, so when my agent called and told me about Columbus, I was really excited. I wasn't sure what it was all about and we didn't discuss contract numbers at first, but they said they wanted a veteran guy with the young defensemen there.
"I think I fit in really well with that, and I know I can help those guys."
The Blue Jackets first touched base with the Aucoin camp early in the afternoon, and stayed in contact throughout the day. During the process, Aucoin received a call from Columbus defenseman James Wisniewski, a good friend and former teammate from their days with the Chicago Blackhawks.
|Adrian Aucoin (center) celebrates a goal with his Coyotes teammates.|
Their conversation was honest and made Aucoin feel even better about the idea of joining the Blue Jackets, he said. Among those Aucoin consulted about the organization and the city of Columbus were former Jackets Raffi Torres, Antoine Vermette and Ray Whitney -- all teammates with the Coyotes this past season -- and others such as Luke Richardson and Scott Lachance.
When it came down to decision time, though, it was all about finding the right fit.
"My agent was willing to do a lot more work than I wanted him to do," Aucoin joked. "I'm pretty honest about where I'm at in my career, and I knew there would be a select few teams that needed a guy like myself. I looked at the Columbus roster a little bit, and knew they were pretty solid on the blue line but obviously you can't foresee a guy like Methot getting traded.
"I was familiar with the Blue Jackets from the end of the year when they beat (the Coyotes) pretty easily. I knew where they stood, and all along, Columbus was high on the list of possibilites. I was thrilled to get something done."
While the numerous conversations he had with current and former Blue Jackets as well as old teammates were part of the recruiting pitch, Aucoin clicked with head coach Todd Richards right off the bat. GM Scott Howson and Richards called Aucoin via conference call in the morning, but the one-on-one conversation with Richards later in the day had Aucoin itching to sign along the dotted line.
Getting wiser with age may be applicable, but Aucoin sensed that he and Richards were on the same wavelength with virtually everything they discussed. It ended up being one of the major selling points on a move to Ohio's capital city.
"There are a couple things when you're a free agent in the latter stage of your career that you look out for, especially when you could be on your last contract," Aucoin said. "I've always said that, as selfish as it might sound, I want to play for good guys. I'm not interested in going somewhere where you have a coach that belittles the players or anything like that, and as bad as that can sound, it's the truth and I have no problem saying it.
"I heard nothing but terrific things about Todd before, and when I talked to him twice (Sunday), it was total positive reinforcement about not only his philosophy, but his character and the kind of person that he is."
Likely included as part of the talks between Aucoin and Richards was where the veteran rearguard fits with the Blue Jackets. Much can change between now and training camp, but based on his prior experience working with up-and-coming defensemen (both in Chicago and Phoenix), Aucoin could fit well on the third pair with either John Moore or Ryan Murray, depending on how things transpire in camp.
For now, though, Aucoin's fired up to be part of a well-rounded group of defensemen.
"I played with (Wisniewski) back when he was breaking into the league, and he was getting the short end of the stick in Chicago," Aucoin said. "I know Jack Johnson's game and the great potential that he has, and Fedor Tyutin is a solid all-around defenseman.
"When you factor in the young guys, I think we're as good as any blue line in the league. We have size, a little toughness, and an all-around potential that's really exciting."
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