Adrian Aucoin: Under-Appreciated

When you ask Coyotes fans and hockey fans in general to name Coyotes players the name Adrian Aucoin rarely comes out, and when it does it tends to be just before David Schlemko.  Quite odd, given the fact Aucoin has played in the NHL for 16 seasons, will have played in 1,000 NHL games as of this evening, earned an Olympic silver medal in 1994, and was an NHL all-star in 2004.  In fact, the man who he was paired with for much of the first half of the season before an injury forced the pairing to dissolve, Ed Jovanovski, stills gets talked about more in his absence than Aucoin does while playing. This is largely due to perception.  Jovo's physical style of play tends to make people think he's a better defender than he actually is.  Yet, it is Aucoin who is arguably the better defender and has been his entire career.  Even at the advanced puck age of 37, he's playing over 20 minutes game, leading the team in plus/minus, and ranked sixth on the team in GVT.

Maybe the reason the defender is undervalued is that he does a lot of things well, but he's not outstanding in any one area a la a Paul Coffey or Rod Langway. If anything sticks out to most Coyotes fans it is his shootout goal scoring prowess last season.  The defenseman from Ottawa can be physical; however, he does not just hit someone for the sake of hitting them, but to remove the player from the puck and usually without drawing whistles.  Aucoin's positioning along with his size make up for his lack of skating speed. The one area of the game he is probably best known for is his booming slapshot.  The problem is most NHL D-men have decent shots from the point and your average fan can't discern the difference between an 80 mph and a 100mph shot, so  again the Ontario native gets undervalued because even the area where he outshines most other players is one that isn't easy to notice at first glance.

Coyotes fans would do well to appreciate the style of play Aucoin brings to the table.  The Coyotes recent acquisitions of Michal Rozsival and Rostislav Klesla play a somewhat similar style to Aucoin's.  Good positioning, physical when needed, and can bring quality slap shots from the point.  Certainly both Czech born defensemen can skate better than Aucoin at this point in their careers, which allows them to activate into the play more in the offensive zone, but their play in their own end is reminiscent of the oldest member of the Coyotes blueline.  Aucoin reminds this writer of a veteran offensive lineman in football who winds up being much more appreciated after he's gone than he was when he was playing for the team.

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