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Inside the NHL: In Hall of Famers Housley and Andreychuk, Bowman struck it rich in '82 draft

Come Monday night, two of the Buffalo Sabres' trio of first-round draft picks from 1982 will be members of the Hockey Hall of Fame. One is current head coach Phil Housley, who became an honored member in 2015. The other is Dave Andreychuk, who will accept induction during this year's annual ceremony in Toronto.

Housley's reaction: "Well, Scotty must have known something, right?"

He's talking about fellow Hall of Famer and former Sabres coach/General Manager Scotty Bowman, a 14-time Stanley Cup champion who hit the jackpot twice that June draft day in Montreal more than 35 years ago.

Bowman, of course, knew how to mine prospects and turn them into NHL stars. But he had superscouts working on his behalf. Among other things, Rudy Migay is in the Sabres Hall of Fame for his work taking Housley at No. 6 from the Minnesota high school ranks and Andreychuk at No. 16 from the Oshawa Generals.

"Rudy saw a lot of Phil Esposito in him," Bowman said of Andreychuk when reached by The Buffalo News on his cellphone Thursday in Philadelphia. "Rudy said about Dave, 'This guy is a goal scorer. You can't move him. He scores a lot of goals, not from long shots but from being in the scoring area in front of the net. They can't move him. He's got the strength and vision.' "

Migay was certainly right. Andreychuk scored 368 of his 640 career goals with the Sabres and played a shade more than half his career games in Blue & Gold (837 out of 1,639). He's sixth in franchise annals in games played and is the all-time leader in power-play goals with 161 for Buffalo and 274 overall.

"Dave was really able to dig in with that big body, get position on guys," Housley recalled. "One of the best puck-tippers back in the day and I don't think people really give him credit for the shot he has. He could pick a corner. He could protect a puck as well as anybody. He'd get that big arm out there and be circling the net. Those are just some of the high skills he had."

The '82 Sabres were a unique team, with five young rookies in Housley, Andreychuk, fellow first-rounder Paul Cyr, Hannu Virta and Mike Moller. They were a resilient group that finished with 89 points and made the playoffs after starting the season 2-5-1. Then they swept Montreal in a memorable three-game opening-round series before losing a heartbreaker in Game Seven of the second round at Boston on Brad Park's overtime goal.

As it turned out, that was the only playoff series Housley and Andreychuk would win in Buffalo. The team was first-round losers to Quebec the next two years despite seasons of 103 and 90 points, respectively. After a rebuild around No. 1 overall choice Pierre Turgeon in 1987, the Sabres lost three straight first-round series before Housley was traded to Winnipeg following the 1989-90 season, when a 98-point campaign went for naught in a six-game series defeat to Montreal.

"Scotty really never got to see it through," Housley said of Bowman, who was fired during the '86-87 season. "It was a young team, Pierre Turgeon came in and that 1990 team was really good and we were all still young but they made some changes because we didn't have success. You would have liked to have seen it play through but that's part of the business. I understand that. The '80s teams were quite successful."

Bowman agreed with the notion that the '80s teams in Buffalo get mostly overlooked because of the franchise's playoff successes in the '70s and '90s.

"You look at the division we were in, it was very tough," Bowman said. "Our seasonal point records were very good but we were playing Montreal coming off four in a row, the first year I was there in '79-80. Quebec was very good. The Statsnys, Hunter and Goulet. Boston had Bourque young, Rick Middleton, traded for Cam Neely. That Adams Division was a tough division.

"You go in the standings and we were rebuilding the team with the big trade with Detroit. We had a few veterans left like Craig Ramsay but not many. It would have been a better team in the era we have now because we had really good young players. We just didn't have the experience."

(Buffalo News file photo).

Andreychuk was traded to Toronto in 1993 and it took him until 2004 to finally win a Stanley Cup, when he captained the Tampa Bay Lightning. By then he was 40 but Bowman still recalled that lithe 18-year-old he had in Buffalo 22 years earlier.

"What he did with Tampa that was so special was that he was a kid who was ready-made offensively who grew up into a guy who was so good defensively," Bowman said. "He was taking faceoffs, on the penalty kill when they were two men short. He became more known for his defense and his career came full circle. It was the icing on the cake for him the way he found a niche in Tampa.

"They had Vinny Lecavalier, Brad Richards, Marty St. Louis, Ruslan Fedotenko. This was a team that could score but Dave was the guy who settled things down defensively. He took his role seriously. It would have been a very sad thing to not get a Cup."

Andreychuk waited a long time for his Hall call, sitting for 12 years because many voters pegged him a "compiler" of large numbers due to longevity. Remember, he never won a major NHL award.

But here's what former Tampa Bay defenseman Brad Lukowich told at the Lightning's '04 reunion two weeks ago: "It's about time. How does he not just get off the ice and walk right into the Hall?"

Added St. Louis: "For me, he's been a Hall of Famer from day one. I'm proud that he's finally getting the recognition."

Come Monday, all of his accomplishments will coalesce into one final moment for Andreychuk. Housley, who famously pulled out his old Jofa helmet as a prop during his induction speech, knows what his old teammate will be feeling.

"Until you drive up and have your first meeting at the Hall to see your picture up on the outside of the building, then it really hits you," Housley said. "You know you're going to be part of something special.

"And then right when you step on the podium, right before you get set to deliver your speech that's when it really hits you. And that's why I think you see a lot of guys who are really emotional because it hits you like a hammer."

More wisdom from Bowman

* On Housley as a head coach: "Phil will do a great job if they have enough personnel but it doesn't seem like they have enough yet. They're going to have get it in the draft. It was unbelievable to see what they did with that defense in Nashville. They really transformed that group and they were ahead of the curve. Now all the teams want to do that.

* On the change in philospohy in attacking: "The new style of hockey once we went without the red line was that the stretch pass was the flavor of the day. That's no longer the case. You do too many of those passes now because your defense can't help on the attack and be that second wave. That's what Nashville showed and what teams want."

* On Tampa rookie Mikhail Sergachev, taken one pick after the Sabres selected Alex Nylander in 2016 and acquired by the Lightning from Montreal over the summer for Jonathan Drouin: "I see Sergachev every night staying down there so I have an advantage. But as a 19-year-old, the things he can do are really amazing. He's on the second power play, playing with a lot of confidence, playing with a good player in Anton Stralman who really helps him with his experience."

This corner's reaction: Nylander -- who is still not practicing in Rochester after suffering what's believed to be a major groin or hamstring injury on the first night of the Prospects Challenge in September -- has a long way to go to prove that former GM Tim Murray didn't make a major mistake passing up Sergachev.

Nov. 1 is a breaking point

Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman has maintained what he calls "the Nov. 1 stat" in his weekly 31 Thoughts blog and it doesn't bode well for the Sabres this year.

Since 2005-06, only six of 48 teams that were at least four points out of a playoff spot after games played on that date came back to make the playoffs. The Sabres were one of the six, in 2010-11.

No one was in that spot last year due to the season's late start from the World Cup but there are six candidates this year. Joining the Sabres were Arizona, Edmonton, Florida, Minnesota and Montreal.

Oddly enough, the Sabres hit Nov. 1 this season with a 3-7-2 record -- exactly the same mark they had in the '10-11 season, which turned after Terry Pegula completed his purchase of the club and the team finished 16-4-4. Buffalo lost a first-round series in seven games to Philadelphia and hasn't returned to the postseason since.

Iafallo gets No. 1

After 13 games without one, Eden's Alex Iafallo scored his first NHL goal Nov. 4 for the Kings in a 4-3 overtime loss in Nashville. The tap-in off an Anze Kopitar feed in the first minute of the third period sparked a comeback from a 3-0 deficit that got the Kings a point.

Iafallo told Los Angeles reporters after the game that, as you would expect, his phone had blown up with congratulatory texts and e-mails.

"All my friends and old teachers and old coaches and all that kind of stuff," he said. "It was pretty cool to get that support and I couldn't thank them enough."

Special goal for Boyle

Incredible moment in the Devils' overtime loss Thursday to Edmonton as Brian Boyle scored his first goal after returning from chronic myeloid leukemia. Boyle exulted on the ice but was head-down on the bench and admitted during an intermission interview with MSG that he was overcome with emotion.

"I've never cried after a goal before," Boyle said. "It's a lot. It's everything ... These guys, my wife, my kids. They've been through a lot too. My parents, my siblings. It's a good feeling."

Around the boards

* Leafs coach Mike Babcock is thrilled with the way veteran Ron Hainsey has lifted Morgan Rielly on his top defense pair in a sort of coach-on-the-ice way.

"It makes it easy for you. Suddenly you look like a lot better player, lot smarter player, lot more confident player," Babcock said. "And it isn't the coach nattering at you. It's your teammate, so you don't even think it's natter."

* Babcock on Auston Matthews' upper-body injury that kept him out of Wednesday's game against Minnesota, the first miss in his NHL career: "The one thing I know is you can't go to a guy and ask him every day if he's ready. You're putting pressure on him. When they're ready to play, they'll tell me."

*West Seneca native Lee Stempniak has been assigned by Carolina to Charlotte of the AHL for conditioning purposes. The 34-year-old has not played this season due to an upper-body injury. Stempniak played all 82 games for the Canes last year, collecting 16 goals and 24 assists.

*Former Sabres and Amerks center Cal O'Reilly has been named captain of the Iowa Wild, Minnesota's AHL club. He had been captain in Rochester the last two years. It's the second straight former Sabre to lead the I-Wild as defenseman Mike Weber was their captain last season.

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