Rec­chi back to the bench

Ready for Sully’s staff

Boston Herald - - SUNDAY NHL NOTEBOOK - By STEPHEN HAR­RIS Twit­ter: @sdhar­ris16

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.”

AP FILE PHOTO

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.

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