Tuesdays With Hildy: Is Adam Oates The Ultimate "One That Got Away?"

Bruce Bennett

The Blues have had many players who have left under unfortunate circumstances -- CuJo, Shanahan, Pronger, Hull, Gretzky -- but was the deal that shipped Adam Oates out of town the most notable loss of all?

When the phrase "Hull and Oates" is mentioned, the first thing that pops into all of our minds is that super cheesy early 90s poster of the two of them in front of the Arch. We remember all of the fantastic goals that Brett Hull scored thanks to his uncanny sixth sense that seemed to turn on whenever Oates had the puck -- he knew where his center was, and Oates knew how to get him that puck. For a little over two and a half seasons, Oates and Hull were St. Louis sports royalty. Unfortunately, money and contracts broke up a beautiful thing, as it so often seems to do.

The Blues have lost quite a few players over the years due to "interesting" circumstances. Mike Keenan traded CuJo to the Oilers for what amounted to the Blues own draft picks. Doug Gilmour had the babysitter scandal. The deal with the Devils cost the team Scott Stevens. Brendan Shanahan had an issue come up between he and Craig Janney, and Keenan elected to trade Shanahan to Hartford for Chris Pronger (who, as we all know, wound up in Edmonton in some fire-sale several seasons later). Wayne Gretzky -- WAYNE GRETZKY -- was driven away by Keenan as well even though he would have been happy to close his career out with the Blues, and of course Brett Hull walked for no compensation at all.

All of these are just heartbreaking. When you see the players who have come and gone over the years, it's mind-blowing, but what's more so is the numbers put up by a player lost to a monetary squabble. Years that defined his career were tossed over a contract dispute over wanting to get paid what Oates felt he was worth. Dominik has a tremendous account of what caused Oates to walk on SB Nation's NHL hub that is absolutely a must read. There is something to be said that it wasn't the Blues who let Oates go, but it was Oates who decided to make himself persona non grata to force the team to trade him to the Boston Bruins.

It was a bitter end to something that set records and created careers. In 195 games with the Blues, Oates scored 58 goals and a mind-blowing 228 assists for 286 points. That's good for nearly a point and a half per game. Most of those assists were to Brett Hull, who scored 72, 86, and 70 goals those years, and had back to back seasons with 50 goals in 50 games. Hull would never reach those goal totals again, and he knew why.

In an interview with Katie Carrera of the Washington Post, Hull had this to say of his time with Oates:

"We were kindred spirits," Hull said. "Nothing ever was as easy as it was with Adam. It was a walk in the park every night because of the way he saw the game, his skill set. We would go to games together just drooling, waiting to get on the ice because of the things we knew we could accomplish. . . . The most disappointing thing for me in my career is not being able to finish it playing with Adam."

Oates, for his part:

"In my mind, playing with Brett was forever," Oates said. "But then, I think, ‘Wait a minute, it was only three years? No way. It was my career.’ Brett is on my mind like he’s my career. It was three years of unreal play. He put me on the map, he did."

Well and good. Oates understands that it was Hull and his time with the Blues that got him on the map. Time heals all wounds, it's said. Has it healed yours? Was Adam Oates the player you most wish never slipped away, or is there another former Blue who you thought it would be more valuable for the team to keep?

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