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Saluting The HHOF Class of 2012

by Sarah Sotoodeh / Los Angeles Kings

Pavel Bure, Joe Sakic, Adam Oates and Mats Sundin will be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame tonight in Toronto.

Kings Senior Pro Scout Rob Laird, Kings Pro Scout Alyn McCauley and Kings Pro Development and Special Assignments staffer Mike O’Connell – all former NHL players – here talk about those impressive players to for this special ‘Saluting the Class of 2012’ story.

Joe Sakic

Q: What were your initial thoughts when you heard Sakic was going to be inducted?

O’Connell: He was a terrific two-way player, and became a champion through hard work and dedication.

Laird: I think you can characterize Joe as a big game player. He scored goals at critical times. He made his players better with his playmaking ability and he was a great leader.

McCauley: He has an incredible resume spanning over many years in the National Hockey League level—was always a productive player, even in his final years and a great competitor. He was one of the hardest guys to play against because he didn’t take nights off or shifts off.

Q: What were his strengths?

O’Connell: I think it was his competitiveness, probably all of these guys were the same—just so competitive.

Laird: Joe’s feel for a game, we call that hockey sense. Joe was one of the guys where, once he had the puck, it didn’t take him very long to snap that shot off or a make a high quality play for a scoring chance. He was certainly a capable two-way player throughout his career as well.

Q: What type of player was he?

O’Connell: He was a complete player. He played all situations, great offensively, great defensively, big draws and he produced.

McCauley: His greatest strengths were leading by example, playing hard and being a very productive player at both ends of the ice especially offensively.

Q: Most memorable moment you have about Sakic?

O’Connell: When he won the Stanley Cup and he got the Cup from the commissioner and he gave it to Ray Bourque. I’ll never forget that.

Mats Sundin

Q: What were your initial thoughts when you heard Sundin was going to be inducted?

Laird: I think everybody would say that Mats Sundin is a consummate pro, dedicated to the game and was ready to play every night.

McCauley: Mats is one guy that I’ve actually gotten to play with. I didn’t get to play with any other of the inductees. I’ve always had a lot of respect for Mats. He always took the time to pay attention to all of his teammates, whether you were on the fourth or fifth line and not playing a whole lot or you were the guy who played on the power play all the time.

Q: What were his strengths?

Laird: Mats is a strong two-way guy. He was strong on his own end, he made it tough on the opposition to score and he was a strong leader.

McCauley: It would be a combination of size and skill. Mats was such a massive guy, both in height and weight but he also had an incredible touch with his passing.

Q: What type of player was he?

O’Connell: Power forward. This guy was a dominating force on the ice. He played his strength, big right-hand shot and could really skate.

Q: Most memorable moment you have about Sundin?

McCauley: I was kind of struggling a little bit in Toronto and I wasn’t putting up many points and just real down. Mats came and found me on the plane one night and asked me to move over and sat there. We talked a lot and he expressed how he thought I was a good player and just kind of a little pick me up talk that we had together, and it meant a lot then and it still means a lot to me.

Pavel Bure

Q: What were his strengths?

O’Connell: He had blazing speed and he could really shoot the puck—instant offense.

Laird: He was one of the fastest players to play the game and he utilized that ability to created numerous chances that lead to a lot of breakaways, a lot of goals, a lot scoring chance, a lot of penalties.

McCauley: He was a very difficult player to play against because he played the game at such a high speed and he was so lethal around the net.

Q: What type of player was he?

O’Connell: Extremely offensive, dangerously speedy, really read the opportunity offensively and he produced, he scored goals, great goal scorer and the anxiety he created when he was on the ice for the opposition.

Laird: I wish there was more Pavel Bure’s in the game today. He was certainly one of the most exciting players to watch. He’s a guy who created a ton of offense, a very dynamic attack-type player.

Q: Most memorable moment you have about Bure?

McCauley: He was in Vancouver at the time and I was very early in my career. I jumped over the boards unto the ice and lo and behold I see Pavel Bure swooping into his own end to pick up a puck. He’s going down my side and I’m standing still…so all I did was try to back up and keep him to the outside but luckily he didn’t score a goal, but I remember that instant, I was looking for a corner to hide in so he didn’t have to be my responsibility at that point.

Adam Oates

Q: What were your initial thoughts when you heard Oates was going to be inducted?

O’Connell: If you look at his stats and what he did, what he’s accomplished—if you just look at his points per game, for him to not be in the Hall of Fame, it would not be right because he is, assist-wise, points per game—he’s up there with the Gretzky’s and Lemieux’s.

Laird: He may be a little under the radar, but one of the best playmakers who played during his era.

Q: What were his strengths?

Laird: Adam had the ability, he had great on ice vision where, before he got the puck, he would know where to move it for a scoring chance and or he would hold on to it for a half a second until somebody got opened. His playmaking ability clearly stands out—that defines Adam most.

Q: What type of player was he?

Laird: A very intelligent hockey player and that’s probably one of the reasons why he’s the head coach of the Washington Capitals today.

McCauley: I would have said very intelligent, that’s why he was able to transform his game from more of an offensive guy to a defensive guy.

Q: Most memorable you have about Oates?

O’Connell: My most memorable moment with him was when I was an assistant coach in Boston and they made a trade for him. They asked me, do you know Adam and they asked do you want to trade for him. It was probably the first time I’ve ever made a decision on a player that I knew ok now I’m on it, and I’m sticking my neck out for this guy, but it was no doubt that this guy was going to produce. And he did. We traded two really good players for him and he was a great player but really helped Boston become a really great team.

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