The veteran struggles in goals, but is a mentor to young Lightning players.
By JOANNE KORTH
© St. Petersburg Times,
published November 23, 2001
TAMPA -- Veteran Dave Andreychuk knew his first season with the Lightning would be challenging.
Boy, was he right.
Andreychuk, among the league's top scorers the past 20 years, came to Tampa Bay to assist in the building project. After 20 games, the Lightning is having trouble scoring goals.
Strangely, so is Andreychuk.
"Obviously, I'd like our record to be better, but with all the young guys we're going to lose some close games," said Andreychuk, 38, who signed as a free agent in July. "But we're getting better. There's been no surprises. It's pretty much what I expected."
Andreychuk's primary role with the Lightning is to mentor rising young stars such as Vinny Lecavalier and Brad Richards, to teach them how to be professionals. His contributions in that area are invaluable, coach John Tortorella said.
"He has tremendous influence in our locker room," Tortorella said. "I know David wants to do more on the ice, that's the type of pro he is. That will come. But what he does off the ice, he has really taken off with that. He is very good with the team."
One way Andreychuk helps the team is with his attitude. The Lightning plays tonight against New Jersey, which has dominated Tampa Bay in recent seasons. Andreychuk, who played for the Devils from 1996-99, knows how hard it can be to reverse the trend.
"They feel that no matter what happens in the game, they still have a chance to beat you," Andreychuk said. "So, you need a break, a power-play goal or something to happen to change the tide. They believe if they play their game they will win, and that's what we need to do here."
Power-play goals are Andreychuk's specialty. At 6 feet 4, 220 pounds, Andreychuk is an imposing force in front of the net. He ranks third all-time with 237 power-play goals, 12 shy of Phil Esposito's record. He is third among left wings in goals (574), second in assists (641) and points (1,215).
Andreychuk was in top form early with the Lightning. He was the leading preseason scorer with four goals and two assists in three games. He had an assist in the season opener against the Islanders and scored the winner on the power play at Anaheim on Oct. 14. Two games later, he passed Mike Bossy for 14th on the all-time goals list with a winner against the Rangers.
Since then, nothing.
In the past 13 games, he has no goals and two assists.
"I've been through this before," Andreychuk said. "I've got to continue to try to get in front of the net. I have to go back to the things that allowed me to score goals in the past. I've got to contribute any way I can to this team, and one is by scoring goals."
Andreychuk enjoyed his most productive seasons with Buffalo in the early 1990s. He set a Sabres record with 28 power-play goals in 1991-92, and scored career highs with 54 goals and 32 power-play goals the next season with Buffalo and Toronto.
Part of the reason Andreychuk's production is down this season is the Lightning's offensive inefficiency. Tampa Bay is last in the league with 39 goals. The power play, Andreychuk's specialty, is 13-for-93, 14 percent.
"We've had a really tough time getting our shots through (to the net)," Tortorella said. "Andy is pretty ineffective if we can't get our shots through because he's there in front."
Tortorella, who coached Andreychuk for four seasons as a Buffalo assistant in the early 1990s, is not concerned. Andreychuk, he said, is a consummate professional who will not tolerate mediocrity.
"Andy's a very resilient guy," Tortorella said. "He has been in this league a long time and done a lot of tremendous things. He knew what he was getting into here. At this stage of his career, he welcomed the opportunity to come in and help some young players on this club."