By Chris Block
Adrian Aucoin, at one-time a Chicago Blackhawks team captain, has re-joined the organization in a player-development capacity. Aucoin has been working with the Blackhawks young defense prospects.
The 20-year pro hockey veteran, who played 36 games with the Columbus Blue Jackets during the lock-out abbreviated 2012-13 NHL season, has evidently chosen to retire as an active player at the age of 40.
Blackhawks prospect and Rockford IceHogs defenseman Adam Clendening spoke on Friday about working and learning now from another accomplished NHL veteran.
“Obviously, Adrian played 20 years in the NHL,” Clendening began. “So, he’s another guy to take in what you can from him, and learn as much as you can.”
Like Clendening, Aucoin played his college hockey at Boston University.
Aucoin played two seasons (2005-07) with the Blackhawks after signing a four-year, $16 million contract after the 2004-05 NHL season lock-out was ultimately resolved during the summer of 2005. Aucoin was played in the 2004 NHL All-Star game as a representative of the New York Islanders prior to signing with Chicago. He posted a plus-29 rating with the Isles that season to go along with 13 goals and 44 points. In Aucoin, the Hawks were anticipating he would provide blue line stability and a big shot from the point to help improve their power play.
Aucoin’s initial season in Chicago was limited to just 33 games. He plagued by nagging groin issues throughout the first half of the schedule. Then, in late January 2006, Aucoin he suffered a dislocated right shoulder when he fell awkwardly into the boards from a hit in a game against Calgary that required season-ending surgery. His 2006-07 didn’t go much better, again constantly battling groin ailments. After 92 games, over which he claimed a minus-35 plus/minus rating, Aucoin was traded to Calgary that next off-season in exchange for defenseman Andrei Zyuzin and minor league blue liner Steve Marr.
He finished out his four-year deal over the subsequent two seasons with Calgary, posting the kind of numbers Blackhawks GM Dale Tallon had expected Aucoin would provide when he originally signed the Gloucester, Ontario native. Aucoin also was able to remain healthy while with the Flames. Aucoin missed 72 regular season games over his two seasons with the Hawks due to injuries and a healthy scratch designation (during time servicing as team captain). Over the following two seasons in Calgary, Aucoin sat out just 7 games.
After his work in Calgary, Aucoin agreed to a one-year deal worth $2.25M with Phoenix and upon expiration of that contract, he signed on for another two seasons in the desert. Aucoin then decided to continue his career at the age of 39 and signed for one year with the Columbus Blue Jackets prior to the 2012-13 work stoppage. In 36 games in Columbus, he posted 4 assists and 16 penalty minutes.
Aucoin now joins Yanic Perreault and Keith Carney as former Chicago Blackhawks who have returned to the club in player development roles. Carney also serves as a pro scout for the Hawks. Perreault joined the Hawks last spring. As one of the NHL’s best face-off men in his era, one of Perreault’s jobs will be to use his knowledge and experience to help improve what in large part has been an organizational weakness. Perreault’s official title is Forward Development Coach. Aucoin’s position hasn’t been made official yet as there has been no announcement by the organization on the hire.
The Blackhawks organization now has a staff consisting of Aucoin, Perreault, Carney and skating coach Kevin Delaney – all led by Barry Smith, who also assist the IceHogs coaching staff in the development of Blackhawks prospects.
The moment most notorious when it comes to Aucoin’s two-year tenure with the Blackhawks was the January 7, 2007 night when then interim head coach Denis Savard chose to designate his captain (Aucoin) as a healthy scratch for a Sunday night home game against the Phoenix Coyotes.
Savard was just six weeks into his stint as Hawks’ bench boss since Trent Yawney fell on Dale Tallon’s sword for another abysmal start to that season. But Yawney also made his own bed, especially with his veterans, by the running his locker room and practices as a coach would in the minor or junior leagues.
In relief of Yawney, desperate to change or ignite a roster doomed for failure, Savard went for shock value when he scratched his team captain halfway into the season.
But he didn’t just scratch his captain. In a move rarely seen, Savard removed the captaincy from Aucoin for that one game and put the “C” on Martin Lapointe with Aucoin watching from the press box.
Savard defended the move by saying he wanted to have the captain’s “C” on someone in the lineup at all times for leadership purposes. Yet, whenever Aucoin had missed a game previously due to groin problems that season, no other player wore the ‘C.” Lapointe was designated interim team captain the previous season, after consulting with Aucoin and coach Trent Yawney, from February through season’s end in place of Aucoin when it was determined he’d miss the remainder of the season due to shoulder surgery.
Injury issues aside, Aucoin was hardly a model captain during his time with the Hawks. While his teammates voted him captain before the 2005-06 season, Trent Yawney and Savard (assistant at the time) wanted to lift the “C” from Aucoin prior to the 2006-07 season but Dale Tallon reportedly wouldn’t allow that move.
Between Yawney’s ill-conceived approach, and Savard’s all-together incompetence in his first year as a head coach, the duo led another flawed Tallon roster to a record that was just bad enough to win the Draft lottery and select Patrick Kane first overall at the 2007 Entry Draft, just hours after trading Aucoin to Calgary.
To his credit, Aucoin has never entirely sugarcoated his two disappointing seasons in Chicago.
Officially, Aucoin was the 42nd team captain in Blackhawks history, succeeding Alex Zhamnov in that distinction.
Brandon Svendsen Retires
Former Rockford IceHogs winger Brandon Svendsen has chosen to retire.
Svendsen, 28, played two seasons with the IceHogs, joining Rockford on loan from the ECHL’s Binghamton Senators in January of 2012. He would eventually sign a contract with the IceHogs, playing in 39 games, scoring 4 goals and 10 assists that season for Rockford.
His 2012-13 season was marred by separate injuries to the same arm that prevented him from making his season debut until January 11, 2013. Svendsen appeared in 40 games for Rockford last season, posting 6 goals and 6 assists.
Svendsen has transitioned his post-hockey life into a business venture with some friends back near his hometown.
The Maplewood, Minnesota native and Bowling Green University alumn played four years in the pros, mostly in the American Hockey League.
Over 274 regular season games in his pro career, Svendsen notched 52 goals, 89 assists for 141 points. In 216 games played in the American Hockey League, he amassed 25 goals and 42 helpers for 67 points.
Svendsen played in AHL seasons for the Binghamton Senators, Bridgeport Sound Tigers, when back to Binghamton and then to the IceHogs. While in the ECHL, he skated for the Idaho Steelheads, Elmira Jackals, Kalamazoo Wings and Toledo Walleye last season while on a conditioning assignment from Rockford.
Svendsen won the USHL Championship while a member of the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders in 2005, just prior to beginning his collegiate career at Bowling Green.