To Brett Hull, Adam Oates was the teammate a goal scorer typically encounters only in his dreams.
"To be able to play with a guy that loved to set up a goal as much or more than score a goal, how can you ask for anything more than that," Hull told NHL.com of Oates, his soon-to-be fellow honored member in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Oates, who finished his career with 1,079 assists and 1,420 points in 1,337 games, will be enshrined in Toronto on Nov. 12 along with Joe Sakic, Mats Sundin and Pavel Bure.
"He was so smart, so hockey smart, that he saw things in where to go and how to beat guys that I didn't even fathom -- and I thought I knew the game," Hull added. "He saw what everybody was doing, on our team and on their team. It was a treat to play with him."
Hull and Oates -- as the duo was dubbed in connection to the band "Hall and Oates" -- gave hockey fans in St. Louis a rare treat for more than two and a half seasons, from 1989-92.
For the short time Oates was a Blue -- from the start of the 1989-90 season to Feb. 7, 1992, when he was traded to Boston -- Hull scored 212 goals and Oates had 228 assists. Do the math for a per-game average and you'll find that Hull scored exactly one goal for every game he played while Oates averaged 1.17 assists over 195 games.
Don't forget also that Oates contributed 58 goals while Hull had 113 assists.
"I don't think the numbers do it justice," Oates told NHL.com. "He was just a fantastic hockey player and we had great chemistry. The year he scored 86 goals (1990-91), I can't tell you how good that was. Statistically he scored every night -- fantastic."
Just as fantastic was their friendship and chemistry off the ice. In addition to playing together on the Blues' top line, Hull and Oates lived near each other, roomed together on the road, and talked hockey together all the time.
They were in their prime and unrivaled on the ice.
"The personal success was just crazy," Hull said. "To be able to play with a guy that you were just as close with off the ice as you were on the ice, I think that had a lot to do with how successful we were."
As Hull pointed out, it wasn't even that every pass Oates delivered was right to him -- but that was on purpose.
"He could just throw it to an area and he knew that I would be there, and vice versa, I knew if I went there the puck would be there," Hull said. "Gretzky used to throw those area passes and you were like, 'What is he doing?' Paul Coffey would come out of nowhere and be right there and they'd get a goal. Adam did a lot of that, but Adam did it more below the top of the circle when Wayne did those passes coming in on the rush.
"Adam mastered the power play in the way that nobody else did. He played down low on his right side and it worked. He'd get one look at the net, the defenseman would have to turn his stick to the net, and that left a perfect lane for him to pass it to me."
All that was missing from their time together was a run at the Stanley Cup. The Blues didn't make it out of the second round, losing in seven games to Chicago in 1990 and in six games to Minnesota in 1991.
Oates got further with Boston in 1992. The Bruins were swept by Pittsburgh in the conference finals.
"If a team makes poor decisions, like trading Adam Oates, what can you do as a player?" Hull said. "It just seemed like we were always so close and a couple of times guys got hurt that were key, but more often than not, to me, there were bad personnel changes. That was a big problem. What I regret is we didn't get to finish what we had started."
Years later, the regrets haven't soured the feeling Hull and Oates each have of that magical time when they were teammates and the puck seemingly always had an open lane to the back of the net.
"It was the best," Hull said.
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