Thursday, February 22, 2018
Tampa Bay Lightning

Tampa Bay Lightning's B.J. Crombeen can do more than fight

Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman was so intent on making the point B.J. Crombeen can do more than fight, he mentioned it several times without being asked.

"We never put an emphasis on fighting, and we're not by bringing in B.J. Crombeen," Yzerman said of the tough guy acquired Tuesday from the Blues.

"We're not putting an emphasis on fighting or anything like that. But you've got to be a hard team. You've got to compete."

That is Crombeen in a nutshell: a player who takes pride in the defensive side of the game, can deliver a solid hit, has been known to kill penalties and can chip in with a goal.

There is no question, though, that Crombeen, 6 feet 2, 223 pounds, can chuck the knuckles, and his 17 fights in 2010-11 tied for sixth in the league.

For a team that had 23 fights last season and that hasn't had a true heavyweight since Andre Roy in 2007-08 (David Koci, who played 37 games in 2008-09, doesn't count), the addition is notable.

"Knowing we have guys that keep guys honest from the other team is reassurance for some guys, no doubt," wing Marty St. Louis said. "A great pickup."

Crombeen, 27, was good for the Blues in 2010-11 with seven goals and 14 points in 80 games while averaging 12:47 of ice time, including 1:41 on the penalty kill.

He was a team-worst minus-18 but improved to minus-2 last season, half of which he missed with a fractured left shoulder.

"I try to play a pretty strong two-way game," Crombeen said. "If you want to contribute, you have to find more than one way."

That includes playing a physical, abrasive game even Yzerman said was a prime reason for acquiring the right wing and a 2014 fifth-round draft pick from St. Louis in exchange for fourth-round picks in 2013 and '14.

The Lightning has had room for such a player since last season's trade to the Avalanche of feisty Steve Downie.

"B.J. brings a lot of those same elements," Yzerman said. "You've got to have balance. You need to score and keep the puck out of the net, but you also have to be a hard team to play against. Nothing has changed in that sense. Our personnel changed. The way we finished last year, we want to be a bigger, harder team."

"A good guy to have around," Lightning defenseman Eric Brewer said of Crombeen, his teammate from 2008-2011 in St. Louis. "He's very team first, very much for the group, a good blue-collar player with lots to offer."

In five NHL seasons, Crombeen has had 65 fights, according to hockeyfights.com.

And though it's not on top of his to-do list — "People who say they love to fight probably have a few screws loose," he said — fighting still has its place.

"It's understanding what you have to do and when you have to do it," he said. "There are definitely times in a game when players take liberties or other things happen, so there needs to be that aspect of the game."

In last season's Western Conference semifinal against the Kings, Crombeen fought Dwight King 4:41 into Game 2 because King in Game 1 injured Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo with a hit from behind.

That's admirable, but "I didn't make this trade to bring in a guy just to fight," Yzerman said. "He's a big, strong, smart winger. He's got skill. He can play in a checking role, is a penalty killer. He fits into our roster very well."

Okay, but still, "I take a lot of pride being a physical player who's willing to stand up for teammates," Crombeen said.

"I don't want to say fighting is a huge part of the game, but having the ability to stand up for teammates, you have that accountability. I think it's a great thing to have."

Andreychuk in Winter Classic game: Former Lightning captain Dave Andreychuk was named Wednesday to the roster of Maple Leafs alumni scheduled to play Red Wings alumni in two games that will precede next season's Winter Classic between Toronto and Detroit. Andreychuk played with the Leafs from 1993-96. The alumni games are Dec. 31 and the outdoor game Jan. 1, all at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor. Detroit general manager Ken Holland told the Associated Press he would reach out to other Wings alumni, Yzerman, about playing.

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