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Hall of Fame

Andreychuk proud long NHL career led to Hall of Fame

Forward, being inducted on Monday, played seventh-most games in League history

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / Senior Writer

Dave Andreychuk doesn't hesitate to list his proudest accomplishment in Hall of Fame career in the NHL. 

"My games played," he said.

In 23 NHL seasons, Andreychuk played 1,639 regular-season games, which puts him seventh in League history. He scored 640 goals, putting him 14th.

"I know that sometimes [that many games played] can be seen as kind of a black mark, or so it's said," Andreychuk said. "I don't think if you ask players if you play in 1,600 games they think it's a black mark." 

It's possible that Andreychuk had to wait until his ninth year of being eligible for the Hockey Hall of Fame to get in because he was tagged as a compiler, especially since he never won an individual award and didn't win the Stanley Cup until 2004, when he was the captain but more of a role player near the end of his career with the Tampa Bay Lightning.

His former teammates don't buy it.

Video: Dave Andreychuk wins Cup for first time in 22 seasons

"I always got upset when people said he was a compiler," said Arizona Coyotes assistant John MacLean, who played with Andreychuk in the Ontario Hockey League and with the New Jersey Devils. "Wouldn't we all like to compile 600 goals and to play that long?

"He loved, loved being out on the ice. Just pencil him in."

Andreychuk can put his Hall of Fame status in pen now. He'll be inducted Monday as one of four players in NHL history to play in at least 1,600 games and score at least 600 goals. The others: Gordie Howe, Jaromir Jagr and Mark Messier. 

"It's tough to even fathom, it really is," Andreychuk said. "Actually, going through my career and passing some guys, some numbers, that was tough to fathom too. Those moments meant a lot to me. I guess selfishly you think, 'Wow, I just scored more goals than Mike Bossy.' You're like, 'Holy [cow], that's something.' Now going into the same Hall of Fame with all those guys that I idolized and watched, it's pretty humbling."

MacLean saw it immediately in Andreychuk when the two played together with Oshawa of the OHL during the 1981-82 season.

"He was just one of those guys that found a way to put the puck in the net," MacLean said.

Andreychuk scored 58 goals and 101 points in 67 games with MacLean on his wing in Oshawa. He was called up to the Buffalo Sabres early in the following season, after he had scored 32 points (eight goals, 24 assists) in 14 games with Oshawa.

"You knew that time he was going to be up there in the NHL and he was going to stay and he was going to score," MacLean said. "You knew he always was going to score."

"You don't know how long it's going to last," said Andreychuk, who was 19 when he arrived in the NHL.  

Funny to hear him say that now.

He had 37 points (14 goals, 23 assists) in 43 games as a rookie. He followed that with 80 points (38 goals, 42 assists) in 78 games in 1983-84 and 61 points (31 goals, 30 assists) in 64 games the following season.

"I knew I could play in the League after three years," Andreychuk said. "The second year I'm still there with Gilbert [Perreault]. I'm playing with really good players and I'm getting points, but can I do this without help from everybody else? The third year I started to realize that I can be a player in this League."

Andreychuk scored 40 goals for the first time in 1989-90 and topped that with 41 in 1991-92. 

The Sabres traded him to the Toronto Maple Leafs during 1992-93, when he scored an NHL career-high 54 goals in 83 games between the two teams. He scored 53 goals in 1993-94 and had 22 more in the lockout-shortened, 48-game 1994-95 season.

"I played against him in minor hockey, a tournament or two, and then in junior, but you don't know how good he is until he's on your team," said Hall of Fame forward Doug Gilmour, who played with Andreychuk in Toronto and later in New Jersey. "You get him on your team, there's respect. The one guy that always stayed on my line was Dave."

The goals were coming in bunches, but it didn't stop critics from questioning his toughness, according to his former coach, John Tortorella, who worked with Andreychuk (6-foot-4, 225 pounds) as an assistant in Buffalo and later won the Stanley Cup with him as Tampa Bay's coach.

"I think a lot of people thought he was lazy because he was a big guy, didn't skate hard, had trouble getting there sometimes and he didn't fight," Tortorella said. "So, they would say, 'He's a big, lazy guy who could stand in front of the net on the power play and bang in some goals.' But he was a good player and I don't think he got enough credit early in his career and he should have. He was one of the great competitors that I ever coached."

Andreychuk was also one of the great net-front players in NHL history.

"His hand-eye coordination for me, I would say, for me, as far as picking pucks out of the air and knocking in rebounds, for his size, was the best I've seen," said Hall of Fame forward Pat Lafontaine, who played with Andreychuk in Buffalo. "It was unbelievable how he could get his stick on deflecting pucks and rebounds and position himself. You couldn't move him."

Gilmour said Andreychuk also had the ability to score goals on his own rebounds. 

"A lot of times he shot the puck hard on the ice at the goalie's stick," Gilmour said. "Whether it would go underneath it or it would come back to him, he was big enough to get the rebound, take it from one side to the other and then go upstairs. 

"He paid the price in front of the net. He earned his goals."

Andreychuk signed with the Lightning as a free agent before the 2001-02 season. The talent on the roster was obvious. 

Forwards Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis, Brad Richards and Vinny Prospal were there. Defenseman Dan Boyle arrived in a trade that season. Goalie Nikolai Khabibulin was primed to rejuvenate his NHL career.

But the Lightning had no clue how to win. They won 24 games in the 2000-01 season. That was an improvement from the 19 wins they had each of the previous two seasons.

"They were just young guys, young wild horses that needed to be put down the right path," Andreychuk said. "When I first signed I kind of took it as a challenge to try to get this team back to respectability. It wasn't about winning the Stanley Cup."

St. Louis remembers the first time Andreychuk walked into the Lightning dressing room, bringing with him the 1,361 games played and 572 goals he had accrued in his NHL career.

"Just the way he carried himself, he was already a Hall of Famer," St. Louis said. "Dave was at the head of the table."

Tortorella said Andreychuk, with help from fellow veteran forward Tim Taylor, immediately started to teach the young players how to be professionals. He also became the conduit between the players and the coaches. 

"He would come to me and say, 'You've got to back off,' or 'We need to get shoved here,' " Tortorella said. "He was a peer with his teammates and a peer with the coaching staff. For that team, with how young it was, it was very important. We found our way."

Andreychuk did too. He went from being a big-time goal-scorer to being a checking-line center. He was still a force in front of the net on the power play, but his on-ice role was reduced. His off-ice role was never bigger.

The Lightning won the Stanley Cup in 2004. Andreychuk had 39 points (21 goals, 18 assists) that season. He scored one goal and had 13 assists in the playoffs. And yet he was maybe the most important player on the team.

"Once you go through it and you get older, you realize, 'Gosh, I learned so much from Dave,' " St. Louis said. "You catch yourself in older years doing some of the things he did. He was such a great mentor to us."

He wouldn't have been had he not played as long as he did. 

"I grinded it out, played through lots, enjoyed practicing, never missed an optional [skate], just wanted to be on the ice," Andreychuk said. "Those are the things you pass on to guys, the love of the game. You're not going to have success every night, but you're sure as heck going to have a chance."

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