Aucoin knows numbers game

 

Adrian Aucoin isn't some rube as green as a bushel of brussels sprouts.

 
 
 
 
 

Adrian Aucoin isn't some rube as green as a bushel of brussels sprouts.

The Calgary Flames defenceman is in fact pretty sharp -- a perfectly bilingual chap who attended Boston University.

Aucoin broke into the National Hockey League with Vancouver in 1995, which is 13 years -- or, if you prefer, five Canucks sweater modifications -- ago.

So when he looks around the locker-room and sees eight rearguards with a combined 3,709 contests of NHL experience and only seven jobs available, he knows there's a problem.

When he takes note of eight one-way contracts worth a total of $25 million, he realizes something has to give.

"A lot of guys are thinking about it," said Aucoin, who will make $4 million in the final season of a deal signed with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2005, "but something's going to happen sooner or later. I think everybody knows they have to do what they do best and something's going to happen.

"Obviously, (general manager Darryl Sutter) will have to make a hard decision. It's not going to be easy, but hopefully whoever it is, he's going to find some greener grass somewhere else."

One report suggested Aucoin, despite no-trade protection, would be the guy to go, with the Los Angeles Kings the most likely suitor.

"Oh yeah, I'm sure," laughed Aucoin, who admits he actually enjoys trade gossip. "They need money (in Los Angeles in order to get up to the salary floor). There's going to be rumours. It's going to happen a lot more now when you see older guys in their last year that there'll be rumours about them. I mean it's always been like that, but even more now."

The situation on Calgary's back end might be tricky, but all visible evidence suggests it's anything but awkward. Guys battling for the same job kid with each other and, as was the case Friday when Rhett Warrener went after the Florida player who cross-checked Anders Eriksson, stick up for one another.

"That's the type of players that we have here," said Aucoin, a 35-year-old Ottawa product. "You look at our D corps and you're not going to find many better guys in the league as persons. Even though you're in competition with the other guys out there, we never see it as that."

Just lip service? No way, says Aucoin.

"I've been on a lot of teams where you want to see guys play bad," he confides. "That's not the case here. You just want to play as good as you can play."

The 2007-08 season was as good as it's been for Aucoin since the lockout. After two miserable, injury sabotaged seasons with the Blackhawks, he played 76 games and notched 10 goals and 25 assists in his first Calgary season.

"It was steps in the right direction," suggested Aucoin, whose most frequent partner was Dion Phaneuf. "I wouldn't say it was a great year, but it was a good year for me. Just to play again, to get more minutes and to play on a good team had a lot to do with it. When you're healthy, you play better."

In a day when free-flowing hockey is all the rage, Aucoin admits he's a bit of a dinosaur.

"I'm all right (with the way the game is played today) just because I can move the puck," he said. "That's what helps my style of game. But personally, I still prefer the clutch and grab. I'm not the slowest guy, but I've always been really good with my stick and using it to tie up (opponents') hands and grabbing and pushing and getting under guys' skins.

"Now, it's just a skating game. I can play that style, but obviously my best years in Long Island were when I played an Eastern style when you could grab a guy and he couldn't go anywhere."

But even at this late stage in his career, he's learning.

"That was one of the best things about coming here," he said. "Jimmy Playfair, technically, is probably the best assistant coach I've had. Every little thing -- where to go, what to do, how to do it -- he really breaks it down and that really helped me a lot last year."

LINES OF FIRE: After Saturday off, the Flames return to Pengrowth Saddledome ice this morning. The next exhibition contest is Tuesday's date in Edmonton . . . D John Negrin, one of the organization's highly regarded prospects, has been re-assigned to the WHL's Kootenay Ice.

jlefebvre@theherald.canwest.com

 
 
 
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