Tampa Bay Lightning's Andreychuk more stressed than when he was playing
The former captain compares 2004 Lightning to current team
Hamilton's Dave Andreychuk won the Stanley Cup with Tampa in 2004 and while he'll be in the press box tonight instead of on the ice, he's still got the jitters.
The captain of that '04 winning team is now vice president of corporate and community affairs for the Tampa Bay Lightning, but Andreychuk said that won't help calm his nerves leading into tonight.
It's been a roller coaster ride for us... and I've felt more stressed than actually playing the game.- Dave Andreychuk
"It's a little more stressful," said Andreychuk, in comparing the lead up to the 2004 finals.
"As a player, I don't recall any time where you let the emotions get the best of you. It's been a roller coaster ride for us... and I've felt more stressed than actually playing the game."
Even though Andreychuk is experiencing this cup run from a completely different vantage point, there's a lot of comparisons between this year's iteration of the Lightning and the '03-04 team – a young group with several superstars, coming off a great regular season and riding a hot goaltender into the finals.
Back then it was names like Lecavalier, Richards and St. Louis playing in front of Khabibulin. Now it's Stamkos, Kucherov and Johnson in front of Bishop.
The one thing that's missing from this year's squad is a grizzled veteran, the role that then-40-year-old Andreychuk played in 2004, but that doesn't mean leadership is missing.
"That's something that was maybe missing last year," he said. "But they've brought in other guys. . . to help with that leadership group. With Steven [Stamkos] being such a young guy, it's not all about him.
"And it wasn't all about me either during my run," he added.
Andreychuk signed with the young Lightning team in the 2001-02 season amidst lingering leadership issues. They had taken away Vincent Lecavalier's captaincy, a position that remained vacant until 2002 when Andeychuk was given the "C."
The 2015 Lighting is led by 25-year-old Steven Stamkos, 15 years younger than Andreychuk was during the cup run. Still, Andreychuk has faith in this year's group, and sees a lot of similarities in the two squads' character.
"This team's a lot quicker than we were," he said. "They've been resilient and bounced back. I believe our team was like that too. We just had that – not cockiness – but swagger about us that we could win no matter what."
The 2004 victory was the first cup in franchise history and also the first in Andreychuk's career. He played 22 seasons before winning a cup, the second longest drought in NHL history.
And Andreychuk has told this current group, many of them in their early twenties, to soak in the moment that evaded him for so long in his career.
"I was living proof back during our cup run of how hard it was to get a cup," he said. "And I know, travelling with these guys, I've stressed to them that just because you're 21, 22 years old, you might not ever get back here again. They have to seize that opportunity."