Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Future Hall of Famer Dave Andreychuk Is Retired (I Think)

Whenever a player I consider a future Hall of Famer (like Steve Yzerman retires I like to write up a piece to commemorate his career. One player I have kept around on my list of currently active players who are hall of famers regardless of what happens in the rest of their careers is Dave Andreychuk. He was waived last season by Tampa Bay and "sent to the minors" where he would get paid his NHL paycheque and not be required to report to the minor team. It was made clear at the time that he had not officially retired (I suppose this leaves open the possibility of trading his contract like that of Vladimir Malakhov). I have kept my eye open for any notice that Dave Andreychuk has officially filed retirement papers. For all intents and purposes he retired last season - but it wasn't official.

This season, Dave Andreychuk is not playing, but I have found little about his official status. CBC reported that Dave Andreychuk retired officially to become a community representative with the Tampa bay Lightning. This was reported as far back as September 28th, but most of the mainstream press didn't even mention this story (I didn't see it on NHL.com, tsn, espn, cnnsi or slam sports). I think this shows the level of NHL media control. Its not a story that lends the NHL in a good light. A hall of fame player officially retires nearly a year after being waived and forgotten about as he has not reported to the minors. Its a very unsatisfying end to a player who was captain of the 2004 Tampa Bay Stanley Cup champions. However, since this was in the "old NHL" and it is in a forgotten small market this story seems to have been swept under the rug.

Anyway, on to dave Andreychuk and his great career. Dave Andreychuk was born in Hamilton, Ontario on September 29th, 1963. He grew up in the Hamilton minor hockey system. In 1980, he joined the Oshawa Generals of the OHL. After two years, including a 100 point season, he was drafted in the first round 16th overall by Buffalo in the 1982 entry draft.

In the 1982/83 season he began the year in Oshawa and scored 24 points in only 14 games and he starred for Canada in the World Junior championships. He made it to theNHL with Buffalo originally as an injury replacement (teams with sufficient iunjuries could call up players from junior in mid-season) and scored 37 points in 43 games in his partial rookie season. He remained with Buffalo for the rest of the 80's and into the early 90's. He consistently scored at around point per game rate and was an unmovable force that was hard to remove from the opponent's slot - especially on the power play. In 1986, he was a member of the Canadian team at the World Championships. Andreychuk was one of the best players in hockey that nobody noticed, since he was hidden in small market Buffalo and he was a consistently very good scorer but he never had that great season. In 1990, he finally made his first NHL all star game. This was in a season where he scored 82 points in 73 games (which were relatively typical numbers for Andreychuk at that time).

In 1993 he was traded to Toronto with Darren Puppa and a first round pick (who was used on Kenny Jonsson) for Grant Fuhr and a fifth round pick (used on Kevin Popp). This season was a 54 goal season and 99 point year which were both career highs for Andreychuk. He immediately clicked well with Doug Gilmour. Andreychuk was the first player ever to be traded during a 50 goal season. He followed this up with a 53 goal, 99 point season that saw his second (and final) All Star game appearance of his career. By 1996, the rebuilding Maple Leafs traded Andreychuk to New Jersey for a second round (used on Marek Posmyk) and a third round pick (used on Andre Lakos).

In New Jersey, Andreychuk was used by the defensively coached Devils mostly in offensive situations. In this more limited usage, Andreychuk stopped scoring at point per game rate for the first time in his now 14 or 15 year NHL career.

In 1999, Andreychuk signed as a free agent in Boston. He only lasted part of a season before being traded to Colorado along with Ray Bourque for Brian Rolston, Martin Grenier, Sami Pahlsson and a first round pick used for Martin Samuelsson.

In 2000, Andreychuk returned to Buffalo as a free agent. He stayed for one 20 goal season. He left as a free agent to Tampa Bay.

In Tampa, he was named captain and had a resurgence in his playing time. In 2004, he captained the Lightning to the Stanley Cup. After losing a year to the lockout, Andreychuk found himself unceremoniously waived in mid-season. This was a horrible way to end a great career. The NHL wants to sweep this under the rug instead of celebrate his retirement and that is unfortunate.

Dave Andreychuk retires with 270 career power play goals. This is a career record. He has the fourth most career games played in NHL history with 1639 and the eleventh most goals in a career with 640.

Andreychuk was a very consistent scorer for a long period of time. He was one of the most dominant power play players ever. He played the "power forward" position before the term was fully coined as a powerhouse who was impossible to move from the slot who finished all the scoring chances created for him. He never had the high penalty minute total that typically goes with a "power forward" - he only once topped the 100 PIM mark in his career. He was a good team player and a talented leader who led a team to the Stanley Cup, but is often overlooked because he lacked a truly great season and spent most of his career away from the NHL's big markets.

With Dave Andreychuk's (supposed?) retirement, here are the players who are currently hall of famers regardless of their future achievements (or lack of achievements):

Ed Belfour
Rob Blake
Martin Brodeur
Chris Chelios
Peter Forsberg
Dominik Hasek
Jaromir Jagr
Brian Leetch
Nicklas Lidstrom
Scott Niedermayer
Joe Nieuwendyk
Chris Pronger
Joe Sakic
Brendan Shanahan

Andreychuk's retirement has been unceremonious. If there is some more ceremony in the future, I may readdress this point, but so far it looks like the NHL is embarrassed by the way his career has ended and wants this swept under the rug.

I'm not convinced that either Pronger or Neidermeyer is, at this point, a shoo-in. They're both certainly on pace to make it, but if either started sucking inexplicably tomorrow, I think he'd be on the bubble.
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