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Dave Andreychuk: Good things come to those who wait

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Former Lightning captain had to toil 21 years for a Stanley Cup.

Rick Stewart/Getty Images

When you think of Dave Andreychuk, you should think of one word: Consistency.

For 20 years in the NHL, he was a constant point producer, tallying over 90 points three times, including 53 goals and 99 points for the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1993-94. On a team with talent like Doug Gilmour, Wendel Clark, Mike Gartner, Glenn Anderson and Felix Potvin, Andreychuk was like the mushrooms on top of a ribeye steak. He just made his team a lot better. The Leafs made the Western Conference Finals in both 1993 and 1994. Somehow, despite all that talent, Toronto couldn't get over the hump, and couldn't break the franchise's Stanley Cup drought.

For Dave Andreychuk, he would have to wait a while to achieve the dream of winning Lord Stanley's Cup.

A Junior star for the Oshawa Generals, Andreychuk was selected in the 1st round, 16th overall, in the 1982 NHL entry draft by the Buffalo Sabres. His impact was felt immediately, scoring 14 goals and 37 points in 1982-83 for the Sabres. His point production exploded the next year, finishing with 38 goals and 80 points in 1983-84. He would repeatedly cross the 80 point or better mark three more times for the Sabres, nabbing 87 in 1985-86, 82 in 1989-90, and 91 in 1991-92.

After 10 and a half seasons with the Sabres, Andreychuk found himself on the move,as he was traded 2 hours north to the Toronto Maple Leafs  (along with goalie Daren Puppa and a 1993 first round pick) for Grant Fuhr and a 5th round pick. The move proved to be vital for the Maple Leafs, who made the playoffs for the first time since 1990. Andreychuk had a banner year season with Toronto, nabbing 25 goals and 38 points in 31 games for the Leafs, who pushed the Los Angeles Kings to 7 games in the 1993 Western Conference Finals. He contributed significantly in the playoffs, with 19 points in 21 games.

Andreychuk talked about the playoff disappointment in June with The Buffalo News.

"The ’93 thing still sits with me. I know now the date. They were showing it, how on May 29 that Wayne Gretzky had his best game ever. I was part of it on the wrong side. That’s a perfect example of a team that was unfortunate and didn’t win. We talked in ‘04 about our experiences of how close we were and to seize this opportunity."

The next year, Andreychuk helped the Leafs again with another great season, with 53 goals in 99 points in 83 games as the Maple Leafs met the Vancouver Canucks in an all-Canadian Western Conference Final. Andreychuk didn't match the offensive production he had in the 1993 playoffs, but still chipped in with 5 goals and 10 points as Toronto fell to the Canucks in 5 games.

Andreychuk remained a constant with the Maple Leafs until he was traded at the 1996 NHL trade deadline to the New Jersey Devils for a 1996 second round pick and a 1999 third round pick. Despite a solid 1996-97 season for which he chipped in with 25 goals and 61 points, he wasn't able to win a Stanley Cup with New Jersey.

For the next few years, Andreychuk would spend time with the Devils, Bruins, Avalanche and even a return to the Sabres, where he spent the entire 2000-01 season with Buffalo, helping with 33 points as the Sabres pushed the Pittsburgh Penguins to 7 games in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, before losing the series.

In the summer of 2001, Andreychuk made the move to the Tampa Bay Lightning, where he provided veteran leadership to a team filled with youngsters. The next year, Andreychuk was made captain of the team by head coach John Tortorella, who had worked with Andreychuk while the two were in Buffalo. In his second season with the Lightning (2002-03), Andreychuk helped the team back to the playoffs for the second time in franchise history.

Andreychuk's on ice leadership and experience would pay dividends for Tampa Bay.

Dave Andreychuk was the veteran leadership the Lightning so badly needed. (Courtesy of Harry How/Getty Images)

Dave Andreychuk was the veteran leadership the Lightning so badly needed. (Courtesy of Harry How/Getty Images)

At the time, many skeptics didn't think Andreychuk had much left in the tank. However, then-Lightning GM Rick Dudley thought he had just enough to help that young team win. He said as much in an interview with the St. Petersburg Times in 2001.

"People will say he's slowing down, but Dave Andreychuk was slowing down 10 years ago," Dudley said. "He's an incredibly competitive person, an incredibly gifted guy when it comes to having the puck around the net."

Andreychuk raised some standards and broke some bad habits. According to the Times, one of the rules he installed was making his fellow teammates put all of their jerseys in the laundry cart, and not dump them on the floor. Andreychuk felt that this was a sign of respect for the franchise that employed them. Also, he founded the locker room legacy of players avoid stepping on the team logo that was in the middle of the locker room. And if a member of the media stepped on it, the team would ask them to leave.

When Andreychuk was made captain of the team in 2002-03, coach John Tortorella told the St. Pete Times he was the perfect guy to wear the "C".

"He is an excellent captain of the team. He brings a lot of things that the younger players do not know right now," Tortorella said. "He knows what leadership is and brings this intangible into the locker room. He has taught our younger players what it is to compete and prepare."

In 2003-04, the Lightning continued to progress on an upward swing, finishing as Southeast Division Champions, and became one of the top contenders for the Stanley Cup. Andreychuk contributed nicely to the Lightning offense, nabbing 21 goals and 39 points as the Lightning finished third in the league in goals with 245. Andreychuk not only provided much needed goal scoring, but also acted as a coach on the ice, providing the young Lightning with veteran experience.

2003-04 Tampa Bay Lightning Stats

For the first time in years, it seemed like a really good chance that Andreychuk would be competing for the Stanley Cup. In all his time in the NHL, he had never once played in a Cup final, so it would be a great achievement to a remarkable career if he could finally get there. The Lightning dropped the New York Islanders in the first round, sept the Montreal Canadiens  in the next round, and then edged out the Philadelphia Flyers in the Eastern Conference Finals, 4 games to 3.

The stage was set.

In the way of Andreychuk's Stanley Cup hopes were the Calgary Flames, an upstart team led by Jarome Iginla, a tough offensive power who grabbed 41 goals for the Flames that season. In the net, the Flames were backstopped by Mikka Kiprusoff, who had an outstanding 2003-04 campaign, going 24-10-4 with a .933 saves percentage and a 1.69 goals against average. Two completely different teams from two completely different locales battling it out for one goal: Lord Stanley's Cup.

Dave Andreychuk and the Tampa Bay Lightning had a hard fought Stanley Cup Final with the Calgary Flames in 2004. (Courtesy of Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images)

Dave Andreychuk and the Tampa Bay Lightning had a hard fought Stanley Cup Final with the Calgary Flames in 2004. (Courtesy of Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images)

Despite Calgary putting Tampa on the brink with a 3-2 series lead, the Lightning roared back and took Game 6 in Calgary to even the series. In Game 7, it was pretty much a defensive slugfest as the Ruslan Fedotenko scored two goals to put the Flames out 2-1. After 21 years in the NHL, Dave Andreychuk realized a dream that very few many get to live out.

Stanley Cup Champion.

It was a momentous occasion for a guy who deserved it years before, but for whatever reason, couldn't reach it.

Andreychuk is thriving in retirement, serving as Vice President of Corporate and Community Affairs for the Lightning. In 2008, he was inducted into the Buffalo Sabres Hall of Fame, and last year, the Lightning built a statue outside of Amalie Arena of the former NHL great. Despite all of these achievements, there is one that still eludes the retired forward. That's the Hockey Hall of Fame.

For a guy who is a 600 goal scorer and is 13th all-time in points, it's a no-brainer that the Hall induct Andreychuk. He definitely helped the Buffalo Sabres and Toronto Maple Leafs during his time in both places, and was a key ingredient in the Lightning winning a Stanley Cup in 2004.

Dave Andreychuk was not only consistent, but he was also a winner.