Dave Andreychuk: Lightning & Maple Leafs Legend

Throughout the history of the NHL, there are only a few moments that were so impactful on a team or the league that it was immortalized by being turned into a statue. When you think of those people, it brings to mind legends of the game like Bobby Orr, whose heroics on the ice are entwined into the very fabric of hockey itself.

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As you enter Amalie Arena to watch a Tampa Bay Lightning home game, you will be greeted by two statues in the promenade. The first, which was erected in 2011, immortalizes Phil Esposito in bronze. This honor was well earned, as his hard work helped to bring an expansion franchise to the city and is a primary reason why there is professional hockey in the Tampa Bay heat.

The second statue, which was constructed in 2014, records one of the most important moments in Lightning history. This was, of course, the pure elation from Captain Dave Andreychuk as he held the Stanley Cup over his head following a Game 7 victory in the 2004 Stanley Cup Final.

Dave Andreychuk Statue
As one of the definitive moments in Tampa Bay Lightning history, Dave Andreychuk had his celebration holding the Stanley Cup immortalized in bronze by the organization. (Matthew Paulson/Flickr)

For Andreychuk, this moment was the culmination of a prolific career as one of the best players in the sport. From 1982-83 through the 2005-06 season, he was an absolute force on the ice, and while he spent his 12 years with the Buffalo Sabres, he would go on to play 13 more seasons, or until age 42. In those years, he would take on 223 games with the Toronto Maple Leafs, 224 with the New Jersey Devils, and 278 with the Lightning.

With the 2022 Playoffs bringing the first postseason matchup between the Maple Leafs and Lightning, it feels appropriate to look back on a player who contributed heavily to their success on the ice and off it in his relatively brief time with the franchises.

Andreychuk Was a Winner With Maple Leafs and Lightning

After joining the Maple Leafs before the 1993 trade deadline, Andreychuk quickly endeared himself to the fanbase. First, he scored 25 goals and 38 points in just 31 games played leading into the postseason. He followed that up with 19 points in 21 postseason games which saw Toronto pushing through two Game 7 series before falling in Game 7 against the L.A. Kings in the Clarence Campbell Conference Final.

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Despite this setback, Andreychuk didn’t slow his game. He went on to score 53 goals in 1993-94, making him the second-best single-season goalscorer in Maple Leafs’ history until Auston Matthews pushed him to third place in 2021-22 with 60 goals scored. However, while Toronto would once again make it to the now Western Conference Final, they fell in five games to the Vancouver Canucks. After this, he continued to play well but was eventually sent to the Devils during the 1995-96 season.

Dave Andreychuk #14 of the Toronto Maple Leafs
While he only played a few seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Andreychuk had one of the best single-season goalscoring totals in franchise history with 53. (Photo by Graig Abel/Getty Images)

From 1996 through 2001, Andreychuk played all over the NHL, including a return to Buffalo. While he wasn’t the elite player he once was, he still posted a consistent 20 goals each season.

However, in the twilight of his career at age 38, he made one last choice that altered his legacy forever. Shockingly, he signed with the Lightning, who were still a struggling expansion franchise attempting to find an identity in the league. Despite this, with a core of young, up-and-coming talent, he went on to play three of the most important seasons in his career.

His contributions were more than the 20 goals he scored, however, as he was the captain they needed to take that next step. As the heartbeat of the franchise, he helped lead the Lightning to their first Stanley Cup. This cemented his place in the Hockey Hall of Fame and made him a sports legend around Tampa.

Lightning and Maple Leafs Have Much to Thank Andreychuk For

Looking back on the history of the Lightning, there’s no doubt that the 2004 Stanley Cup victory was a turning point for the franchise. Without this, there’s no telling if they would have survived the tumultuous years following the 2004 lockout. That victory gave them a history to build around once stable leadership presented itself in 2010, and has allowed them to flourish ever since.

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While his time with Toronto was less franchise-altering, it’s still an impressive feat to post the second-highest goalscoring season for a team with so much history. Andreychuk held that spot for almost 30 years, and while he has been bumped down the list by one spot, it doesn’t diminish his legacy on the ice.

Most importantly, Andreychuk remained beloved in every community he played in. His personality is unquestionable, and he will always be remembered positively by any fan who saw him play.

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