In honor of the 25th post in this series, how did 25 feel about 91?
Throughout the years that Dave Andreychuk has been with the Tampa Bay Lightning in a front office capacity, he's been asked to weigh in on Steven Stamkos. The two have the Tampa Bay Lightning captaincy in common, and Andreychuk's years of experience in hockey gave him a front-row seat to observing just how good Stamkos is.
The two never overlapped as players (Andreychuk was waived in January of 2006, and Stamkos was drafted in 2008), but Andreychuk has always been ready with his support and praise of Stamkos.
Andreychuk was present at Stamkos's birth as a fledgling Bolt. On April 7, 2008, Andreychuk was Tampa Bay's representative at the draft lottery, on a panel with four other former players from the other top-five teams. "We have a 50/50 chance [at first overall]," Andreychuk said to the NHL host, “That’s a good thing...Vinny Lecavalier won us a Stanley Cup, and hopefully the next guy can do that for us."
At 8:30 PM, the magic number was drawn, and the camera panned in on Andreychuk’s wide grin as the team secured the first overall selection. "Well there you go,” the NHL host said, “Lightning does strike twice. They had it with Vinny Lecavalier, they have it with Stamkos looking on -- a decent chance that Stamkos will go first overall to the Tampa Bay Lightning."
"As an organization we're very happy," Andreychuk responded, "Obviously, we have a kid that's in the draft that's gonna be a superstar. Through the luck of the draw we were able to get a chance to get him."
"You lost one of the big three this year when you had to trade Brad Richards. Could this be a member of the big three again?"
"You mention that you thought he was the same kind of player as Vinny Lecavalier."
"Absolutely -- he's in the superstar status. Obviously they're different players the way they play on the ice, but the results are the same, and we're really looking forward to that."
And Andreychuk got to deliver the very first words that anyone from the organization spoke about Stamkos playing for the Lightning.
(Easter Egg -- A Bleacher Report reporter's play-by-play of the 2008 draft lottery.)
In Stamkos's third year with the team, Andreychuk was asked by a Tampa Bay Times writer what he thought of Stamkos's shot. The story setup was this smoking scene: "Steven Stamkos, during a recent practice at the St. Pete Times Forum, sent a sizzling one-timer, short-side and high, through a seemingly miniscule opening over the right shoulder of goaltender Mike Smith, who was positioned right where he should have been."
When asked to comment on it, Andreychuk used football language to describe Stamkos's play: "It's almost like that wide receiver that you double-team all the time. When he's in the offensive zone, they're going to know exactly where he is at all times, exactly. So he's going to have to really work to get open a little bit more."
Andreychuk was often quoted in the Bolts’ Stanley Cup Final season of 2014-15. In this Canadiens News article, the writer balances Andreychuk's words with Stamkos's about being captain.
When Dave Andreychuk was named captain of the Lightning in 2002, he thought of one of his childhood heroes, Darryl Sittler, captain of the Maple Leafs.
Andreychuk remembered addressing his teammates after being eliminated by the Devils in 2003 playoffs. "We're not ready to win," he told them.
The message was: Go home and work hard in the offseason. There is a lot of talent in the locker room but too latent potential.
You can recall the Lightning won everything the following year.
Responsibility, Andreychuk said, is the first building block in a championship.
And in turn, Stamkos said of the captaincy:
"When you have that 'C' on your jersey, there is a lot of responsibility and accountability, and you must ensure that you do these things yourself if you want to hold everybody accountable. It is a great honor," said Stamkos. "The fact that you are in the NHL is pretty special, but (you are) a leader not only a team, you represent the organization, the city you play in."
“Responsibility and accountability” — clearly these two captains were cut from the same mold.
During the playoff run of 2015-16 when Stamkos’s contract talk was at a fever pitch, a blood clot struck down Stamkos in the middle of the run. Andreychuk managed to calm fears regarding both Stamkos’s health and the contract situation, diffusing Lightning fan worries and Leaf fan hopes at the same time.
On a Hockey Central at Noon spot during playoffs, Andreychuk said to the panel, “Steven is going to come back. He’s going to be fine. I still believe that [GM] Steve Yzerman is trying whatever he can do to sign Steven Stamkos, and I believe it will happen. Even with all this going on, I think it will happen.”
In the same interview, Andreychuk said positive things about Stamkos's sense of responsibility to the Tampa Bay community as well. "He understands what it is to be a superstar. He is the face of the franchise. There's no doubt in my mind. If I have a sick kid in the hospital, he's on it right away."
Nobody would believe Andreychuk quite yet, but it eased the mind of many Bolts fans that the old captain still believed that the new one would return. This confidence was rewarded, and Stamkos signed, making sure that the promise Andreychuk saw at Stamkos’s draft would carry through.
What else do they have in common?
According to The Hockey Writers, they'll both end up on "Tampa's Mount Rushmore."
By the way — #Respect640! Join Raw Charge’s campaign to get Andreychuk into the Hockey Hall of Fame!