Shortly after free agent Dave Andreychuk signed with the Lightning
in July 2001, the graybeard left wing instituted a team policy:
Walking on the pristine silver-and-white Tampa Bay logo
emblazoned in the center of the dressing room's deep-blue carpet
was prohibited and punishable by a $50 fine. With roughly 100
square feet of prime real estate off limits (the trespassing fees
go toward an end-of-season party), players and even coach John
Tortorella can be seen stumbling around the perimeter of the room
in a kind of awkward ballet.
Redirecting dressing-room traffic is just one way the 40-year-old
Andreychuk, now the Lightning captain and a veteran of 22 NHL
seasons, has given a collective hotfoot to what was a complacent,
downtrodden team. Before Andreychuk's arrival Tampa Bay bore the
low expectations of a franchise that had had just one winning
season since entering the NHL in 1992. "He changed the culture in
that locker room," says general manager Jay Feaster, whose club
has been in the playoffs for two straight years.
Adds 24-year-old center Brad Richards, "He brought credibility to
the room and accountability to the players. It's been totally
different since he's been here."
As a result, a quest that Andreychuk began 10 years before the
Lightning joined the league may finally be fulfilled: No active
player has appeared in more regular-season and playoff games
(1,747) without winning the Stanley Cup than Andreychuk. With the
Eastern Conference finals tied at one game apiece after the
Flyers' 6-2 win on Monday night, Tampa Bay was three wins away
from the Cup finals.
Gifted with soft hands and trigger-quick wrists, Andreychuk, who
has built Hall of Fame credentials despite a skating style
generously described as plodding, has undergone a reinvention of
his own since joining the Lightning. One of the most consistent
scorers in league history--he's the league's alltime leader in
power-play goals (270), ranks 11th in total goals (634) and has
had more 20-goal seasons (19) than anyone but Gordie Howe (22)
and Ron Francis (20)--he has become an expert in the game's
overlooked arts: taking face-offs, blocking shots, killing
penalties and checking top players.
A team defined by the flash and dash of young standouts Martin
St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier is propped up by the mettle of
Andreychuk, a player with scars older than some of his teammates.
"He slips under the radar because you're so worried about other
people," says Flyers coach Ken Hitchcock. "But at the end of the
night he's played on all the power plays, taken all the key
face-offs, killed all the penalties and been out there in the
first and last minutes of the game. He's a real heart-and-soul
To his friskier teammates, Andreychuk's willingness to throttle
back his offensive impulses has had more impact than Tortorella's
constant pleas for them to play a two-way game. Andreychuk is
also a buffer between the hyperintense coach and a young club
that at times doesn't know what to make of Tortorella's tantrums.
The staff relies on Andreychuk to make sure its messages are
heard. Conversely, Andreychuk and veteran center Tim Taylor are
brave enough to tell Tortorella to chill out when he loses his
temper behind the bench. Says associate coach Craig Ramsay, "We
might not have solved some of the problems we've had without
"When I got here, there was offensive talent, but those players
had to realize there are two ends of the rink," Andreychuk says.
"My offense isn't needed as much as it was in the past." That
doesn't mean you can keep a good scorer down. After a slow start
this season--he says it took him two months to recover from
Tortorella's grueling training camp--Andreychuk scored 15 goals
in Tampa's final 43 games to finish with 21 on the year. In the
Lightning's 3-1 series-opening win last Saturday, he scored the
first goal with a nifty play in front of Flyers goalie Robert
Esche, wristing the puck into the top corner from a few feet out.
"He just keeps going," says Ramsay. "And the way he skates, you
can say he hasn't lost a step." --Stephen Cannella