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Day 1 post-Dave: Mourn, move on
No one's smiling about it, but the Lightning views the loss of its veteran leader as part of the game.
By TOM JONES
Published January 12, 2006
TAMPA - Dave Andreychuk cleared waivers Wednesday. He pushed his meeting with the media from Wednesday to today. And the Lightning took the day off from practice.
All in all, Day One A.D. (After Dave) was pretty uneventful. Yet it was significant, too. For the first time since the start of the 2001-02 season, Andreychuk is no longer a part of the team.
No longer will he whisper words of wisdom in the ear of teammates on the bench or shout the riot act in the locker room. He won't be there to face the media after a tough loss and force his teammates to do the same.
He won't park his 6-foot-4 frame in front of the goalie on the power play or in the faceoff circle when an important draw needs to be taken.
And, most of all, the friend, teammate and captain who scratched, clawed and bled with them to win a Stanley Cup is now gone from their daily lives.
"It's a sad situation," defenseman Dan Boyle said.
"No one is happy," veteran center Tim Taylor said. "No one (has) a smile on his face."
But after a few hours of mourning, the Lightning is ready to move on. While Wednesday was the first day without Andreychuk, the Lightning sees it as the first day of the rest of the season.
"It's part of the game," forward Fredrik Modin said. "It's something that happens. Everybody is thinking about Dave the person, that's who we're looking after. It's sad to see, but it's part of the game and it's management's decision. We can't do anything about it other than move on. Obviously, we're going to miss having him around."
But how much?
Around 13 minutes a game, time that will easily be made up by adding a few more minutes to everyone else's ice time. While no one in the locker room had a more experienced voice than Andreychuk, he wasn't the only voice. In the past two seasons, Taylor, Marty St. Louis and Brad Richards have asserted themselves into team spokesmen. And with a slew of offensive stars, the power play (near the bottom of the league anyway) should not miss Andreychuk's presence too much, if at all.
If anything, Andreychuk's dismissal could serve as a rallying point.
"Dave is a very proud individual. He's a great character guy," Taylor said. "It would be disrespectful to him if we let this be a distraction. He has instilled a good attitude within this hockey team - and that is to push forward. He would want us to get better and prepare for Friday's game."
Such talk does not mean the Lightning is suggesting it is better off without Andreychuk. It just means the Lightning has no choice but to move on. And while Andreychuk's influence cannot be measured, hockey players are used to a constant revolving door that pushes out popular teammates.
"That's the way change is," Richards said. "You see it in different teams and players around the league. It will happen to us someday, probably sooner than we can ever imagine. Every team evolves and that's the way teams go."
Meantime, Andreychuk has nowhere to go. He cannot officially announce his retirement because he would forfeit the rest of this season's salary (he is owed about $350,000) if he did. But with no team claiming him off waivers, it appears Andreychuk's 23-year Hall-of-Fame career is over.
"Obviously, with the amount of ice time I was getting, the situation with our team, it wasn't a shocker," Andreychuk said. "I've been around long enough to realize the situation I was in."
Andreychuk was on pace to score 11 goals with 23 assists this season, easily the least productive season of his career. As a rookie in 1982-83, he had 14 goals and 23 assists, but he put up those numbers in 43 games.
"I feel like I can contribute," Andreychuk said. "I'm not playing the way that I want to. With the new rules and with the new systems we have, I'm not playing as much. I'm not playing up to my standards, that's first and foremost. I'm the one who has to look at myself in the mirror every day and I have high expectations for myself."
He did appear to be playing better in recent weeks, but not well enough to save his job.
His next job likely will be with the team that ended his career. It's expected that Andreychuk will return to the Lightning as an assistant coach, although that likely won't happen until next season.
"We discussed that already," Andreychuk said. "We're obviously going to go out on good terms. I want to be a part of the organization in some capacity. Hopefully, when the dust settles here we can talk about those things."