A bit of a surprise acquisition in free agency, Adrian Aucoin could be a major find for Scott Howson, much like the addition of Vinny Prospal to the team's forwards last season.
Birthplace: Ottawa, ON (Canada)
2011-2012 Stats: 64 GP, 2 G, 7A (9 pts) +14, 42 PIM
Previous Team: Phoenix Coyotes
Who Columbus Gave Up: None - acquired as a UFA
Contract: 1 year, $2.25 million dollars. The team could negotiate another deal during the season, or wait until next summer if they want to retain him. Otherwise he'll be able to seek a new contract elsewhere on July 1st.
Strengths: Aucoin is known for being an excellent puck handler who has great "hockey sense". Despite his age, he's extremely solid in his own end. He can settle the play down easily and has a hammer of a shot when he gets the opportunity to use it. He's also surprisingly solid in the shootout for the same reason. Known for being a leader in Phoenix and Calgary, he's respected for his mentoring and work ethic.
Weaknesses: At 39, he's beginning to slow down, and his skating ability has never been regarded as top-tier. He tends to be a little less aggressive than many like to see from a "shut down" player, and he's frequently chided for not shooting the puck enough, though it's worth pointing out that Phoenix and Calgary both tended to pair him with more offensively minded partners the last few seasons.
The Bottom Line: Aucoin adds veteran experience and mentoring ability, much like Vinny. He's not going to accept anything less than top effort from anyone, including himself, while teaching guys like Ryan Murray, Tim Erixon, and Nikita Nikitin some of his tricks. I'd expect him to spend most of his time on the third pairing, but don't be surprised if he acts almost like an additional assistant coach in practices. I'd be interested to see if he spends some time on the PK units, and I'd love to see his howitzer in the shootout now and then as a surprise for opponents. Given his experience and history of leadership, I'd also bet he has a few lessons to pass along to guys like Derek Dorsett, Jack Johnson and James Wisniewski as they take up larger leadership roles in the room as well.
A few thoughts on Aucoin from Travis Hair over at Five for Howling:
Aucoin basically gets you what you'd expect in an older veteran d-man. He's not going to rack up many points nor is he going to be the fastest guy out there. However, he does a few things that many defensemen don't.Chief among them would be you hardly ever find yourself yelling at him for missing coverage or making a boneheaded play. He's the perfect guy to have show your young players the ropes. For most of last season he was paired with Oliver Ekman-Larsson. That turned out pretty well for both of them as Aucoin's defensive focus allowed Ekman-Larsson to join the play more frequently. OEL has also cited Aucoin's guidance as one of the main reasons that jump to the NHL last year was so easy.Finally, the last place Aucoin will be missed will be, oddly, in the shootout. He didn't do anything fancy, just blasted it from between the dots but no one could stop him. That got him the nickname "The Closer". Frankly the only reason Aucoin isn't back with the team is we have too many young guys that are very talented and need to start getting playing time. He's a great guy that just does his job and eats up minutes.
Sounds like exactly what this team needs to help cement their defense behind Wiz, JJ, Tyutin, and Niki6. I wouldn't be surprised if we see him logging 15-18 minutes a night and taking key defensive starts.