Recchi back to the bench
Ready for Sully’s staff
Mark Recchi was a Bruin for only 229 games (including 49 playoff appearances) at the end of his career, playing more for Pittsburgh, Montreal and Philadelphia than he did for the B’s.
Yet he is remembered in Boston as one of the classiest guys to pass through the dressing room in many a year.
Recchi, the NHL’s 12th leading all-time scorer with 1,533 points in 1,652 regular-season games, will be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame on Nov. 13. In 2011, Recchi had the rare experience of leaving the game on his terms, not when management or the ravages of time forced him out.
He was a key contributor to the Bruins’ Stanley Cup win — his third, with three different teams — then walked away.
Actually, he didn’t go far: Recchi spent the past three seasons working in player development for the Penguins. He played a key role in the parade of players from the Wilkes-Barre (AHL) farm club, including Conor Sheary, Jake Guentzel, Bryan Rust, Scott Wilson and goalie Matt Murray, who helped the club win the last two Cups.
The Penguins and Chicago Blackhawks have created the ideal model for NHL success: Developing young talent and integrating players on the NHL roster. And now Recchi, 49, will go from the development side to coaching, filling the Penguins assistant coach job vacated when Rick Tocchet became head coach in Arizona.
“It happened really quickly with Rick leaving for Arizona to be the head coach, which was well deserved,” said Recchi, as he watched the prospects tourney last weekend in Buffalo. “Sully (coach Mike Sullivan) and Jim (Rutherford, the Pens’ GM) approached me about replacing (Tocchet). We had a couple of conversations, and the more I thought about it the more it intrigued me. After speaking with my family and kids I thought it was something I’d really enjoy.
“I’ve been on the bench quite a bit in the last number of years with Wilkes-Barre. It’s something I’m really excited about. I actually traveled a ton in player development; I was all over the place looking at our prospects. This is actually controlled and predict- able travel. I know where I’m going to be and I won’t be by myself as you are when you’re on the road in player development. So this will be a nice change.”
For Sullivan, it’s a treat to immediately replace a top-notch guy like Tocchet with Recchi, who has an establish relationship with many of Pittsburgh’s top players.
“Toc’s a tough guy to lose. He was so valuable on our bench,” said Sullivan. “We think Rex has a lot of the same attributes that Toc had. He thinks the game on a very high level.
“He can hit the ground running from an assistant coaches’ standpoint. He’s been in the development aspect of our organization for a few years, so he’s had his hand in the coaching side in a lot of ways, and he really knows our young players who are the next generation coming up. For all those reasons he’s going to be a natural fit for our staff.”
Recchi knows that to stay on top in the salary cap era, an NHL team has to be annually cycling in young players (on relatively inexpensive contracts). This is certainly what the Bruins are trying to do.
“We’ve been fortunate that Jim Rutherford has done a great job, so we’re still flexible with the cap,” said Recchi. “We’ve always got room. We’ve never gotten into trouble, to where we had to move guys just to move guys. It’s one of the biggest things in the game now: You’ve got to be able to manage your salary cap. You’ve got to have constant turnover and competition.”
Recchi taught his Bruins teammates about the dedication and courage required during the playoffs in the 2009 second-round series vs. Carolina. He continued to play not only with a rib injury, but, in Game 6, after being hospitalized the night before to undergo surgery to remove a painful kidney stone.
“I loved my time there,” he said. “Obviously, to finish my career on a high note, winning a championship — after 40 years without bringing the Stanley Cup back to Boston — was fantastic. I love the city and I’ve been there a lot in recent years. My son goes to Cushing (Academy) and my daughter goes to Suffolk (University). I can’t get away from it. But I love Boston.”
GIVING COACHING A SHOT: Mark Recchi will move behind the Penguins bench this season, joining Mike Sullivan’s staff after three years in player development for the two-time defending Stanley Cup champs.