Tuesday, May 31, 2011

What We Learned: Old Man Mark Recchi’s astonishing longevity

Hello, this is a feature that will run through the entire season and aims to recap the weekend's events and boils those events down to one admittedly superficial fact or stupid opinion about each team. Feel free to complain about it.

Mark Recchi will play for a Stanley Cup just two days from now.

At 43 years old, he's about to become the second-oldest person to play in the Cup Finals. It's also notable because when that puck drops on Wednesday night, it will be about 20 years and a week since he lifted it for the Pittsburgh Penguins.

It happened on May 25, 1991, about eight months before teammate Tyler Seguin was born. And the scary thing is, that was Recchi's third year in the league.

Partly through his longevity and partly because he was an extremely good player in his heyday, Recchi is currently 12th on the all-time scoring list with 1,533 points, and trails only three of the biggest names in hockey's history ?�Howe, Messier and Francis ? in games played at 1,652.

He played in all of the disparate eras the NHL has given us over the past two-plus decades. The high-flying days of the early- and mid-90s, when 100-point seasons seemed the norm for even very good players rather than the exception for the best of them; the late-90s and early-2000s slogfests of defensive ingenuity and offensive futility; and now the odd league-wide celebration of the middle ground, in which 1-0 near-stalemates and 6-5 carnival rides exist within the same playoff series, and somehow within reason.

And while no one would ever have mistaken Mark Recchi for the best player in the league, he has played at a high level and fit in seamlessly in all of them. He once scored 123 points in a single season, and that's still an all-time record for the Flyers.

The three least-successful seasons of his career have been the last three ?�meaning he's been north of 40, when most other guys have been retired for at least a handful of years, for all of them. Of course, when your worst statistical season is a 43-point effort as a 42-year-old man relegated largely to a checking role, that's really quite something.

Obviously, that role hasn't come because Recchi doesn't "have it" any more.

(Coming Up: Tony Gallagher's anti-Colin Campbell conspiracy rant; Crosby concussion update; Alex Ovechkin still dresses like an idiot; hope for Thrashers; Brad Richards and the path out of Dallas; the Ville Leino price; the unreal Ryan Johansen; Ducks' biggest waste of money; in praise of the Kings' farm system; Bryzgalov sets the market; head shot ban; silly scheduling; Ryan Jones signs with Edmonton; there is someone actually named "Joonas Nattinen"; and a trade that would bring Matt Duchene to the Leafs.)

His modest total of 14 goals this year was still better than about three-quarters of the guys who played in the league this year. And that came with the old man smashing bodies around against the top talent in the league (he was partnered with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand for much of the season).

In all, Recchi has played on the same team with 331 different NHL players (according to numbers I looked up on hockey-reference.com). Boston is technically his seventh franchise, but he's earned enough frequent Flyer-and-Penguin points to probably buy either team, having made three stops in Pittsburgh and two in Philly.

A lot of guys stay around because they can. They'll find some team to give between 12 and 15 minutes a night or so and stick around long past their sell-by date to cash another paycheck and their careers and roles diminish to the point you can't quite remember how they were so good in the first place.

Chris Chelios got his name on the Cup despite not playing in the 2008 Finals and somehow milked parts of two more seasons out of the deal, even as he closed in on being half a century old. The less said about Dave Andreychuk's 2005-06 campaign the better. No one wants to see Bobby Orr on the Blackhawks, y'know?

That's not the case with Mark Recchi. Maybe it's because he drank champagne from the Stanley Cup as a 20-year-old (non-alcoholic I hope!) and waited another 15 years to do it again, but he says he'll retire at the end of this season if the Bruins win against the Canucks.

Of course, there's always the vividly real possibility that they don't, and Recchi sticks around another year. If he did, he'd have a chance to pass Francis in games played and Ray Bourque in points.

But if they do, it would be a marvelous bookend to an improbably successful career.

What We Learned

Anaheim Ducks: Andy Sutton was named one of the biggest wastes of money in the NHL this year, though with a salary of $2 million, I bet it wasn't that bad. But then, I'm no expert.

Atlanta Thrashers: Another possible buyer for the Thrashers? Yeah, it's a guy with a fake-looking mustache calling himself Tim Talsillie.

Boston Bruins: People used to badmouth Nathan Horton for not showing up when it mattered. Now he's the first player to ever close out two Game 7s in the same playoffs, and they're not doing much badmouthing any more.

Buffalo Sabres: Hey whoa buddy, don't go thinking the Sabres can just buy the Rochester Americans tomorrow. Well they can, but they might not for some reason.

Calgary Flames: The Flames have a lot of work to do in the offseason, but word on the street is they think they can get Alex Tanguay signed. 'Course, they also thought they could make the playoffs the last two seasons and how'd that work out?

Carolina Hurricanes: Hurricanes prospect Oskar Osala has jumped to the KHL and no one cares, really.

Chicago Blackhawks: Jonathan Toews said that it wouldn't be the worst thing ever for Winnipeg to get another hockey team, sparking hundreds of pages of fan fiction from Manitoba-based idiots.

Colorado Avalanche: The Avs' owners are buying Arsenal FC of the English Premier League because they are trying to acquire every massively overrated franchise in professional sports.

Columbus Blue Jackets: Oh man oh jeez Ryan Johansen will probably be on the Blue Jackets this year. Watch out for this kid. He's going to be unreal.

Dallas Stars: The basic thrust of this story is that the Stars have no chance at retaining Brad Richards. None.

Detroit Red Wings: Joey MacDonald wants to be back with the Red Wings. The feeling is unlikely to be mutual.

Edmonton Oilers: The Oilers re-upped Ryan Jones for two more years. His claim to fame in hockey, unfortunately for Edmonton, is having the best hair in the league.

Florida Panthers: Stephen Weiss's season only gets a B-/C+. Being second on the team in goals and first in assists and points just doesn't get you the mileage it used to, eh?

Los Angeles Kings: The Kings were recently named the team with the best farm system in hockey by Hockey's Future, which is a good thing, says the LAist. Being the best at things is good. "The Kings have a loyal fan base and are one of the few teams in Southern California that is on the rise." So sorry to the one other team in Southern California.

Minnesota Wild: The Wild signed prospect Kris Foucault. He was the best player on a very, very bad junior team.

Montreal Canadiens: Speaking of signings, the Habs inked Finnish center and 2009 pick Joonas Nattinen, which is maybe the Finnishest name ever, if you think about it.

Nashville Predators: Jerred Smithson is right when he says the Predators had a great season. They just ran into a buzzsaw. Imagine how good they'll be if/when they move the East.

New Jersey Devils: The Devils think their fourth overall pick in the draft next month will be a no-brainer regardless of who's on the board through three. That's interesting.

New York Islanders: Garth Snow is pretty good at drafting hockey players. But you should have already known that.

New York Rangers: The Rangers are already filling out their European exhibition games, with tilts against Frolunda and Sparta Praha. No word on whether the team is trying to get those to count in the NHL standings so they can soften up the schedule a bit.

Ottawa Senators: Bryan Murray has carefully assessed the Canucks' chances of winning the Cup this year and determined that they are better than the 2007 Senators in every conceivable way.

Philadelphia Flyers: Hey good luck signing Ville Leino. He won't be expensive at all. Oh he will be? My mistake.

Phoenix Coyotes: What happens with Ilya Bryzgalov will go a long way toward deciding who gets how much this offseason. With the Coyotes' current budget, he'd probably have to take a hometown discount for them to pay other guys (like Keith Yandle) what they deserve.

Pittsburgh Penguins: Sidney Crosby will have a checkup with a concussion specialist soon. Hey remember when everyone had that absurd fantasy that he'd be ready for the playoffs? That was hilarious.

San Jose Sharks: Just a reminder that the Sharks choked and are awful boooooo the Sharks you stink.

St. Louis Blues: The Blues are holding a food drive for the victims of the Joplin tornado. Everyone who donates will get to meet Barrett Jackman, TJ Oshie, Ben Bishop and Tyson Strachan, and also receives a free ticket to a preseason game. Get on it, people who live in St. Louis.

Tampa Bay Lightning: The Lightning arrived back in Tampa and were greeted with a fire hose attack by fans who were mad they lost. At least that's what the picture leads me to believe.

Toronto Maple Leafs: Because the Bruins made the Stanley Cup Finals, the Leafs get an extra second-round draft pick out of the Kaberle trade. That Burkie is a genius.

Vancouver Canucks: Y'know, I don't tend to think writers are as hyperreactive to conspiracy stuff as they're portrayed. But the talk of a conspiracy BEFORE a series starts? Get over it.

Washington Capitals: Alex Ovechkin showed up at his first part of the summer, and yes, he still dresses like an idiot.

Gold Star Award

Hockey Canada adopted a zero-tolerance rule for headshots. If you're going to be for player safety, you have to be 100 percent for player safety. There's no half-assing this.
Minus of the Weekend

Goddamn NHL schedule makers. Yeah, having five days off between games is a good idea. Great idea. I love the idea.

Play of the Weekend
I would say the only goal of Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals qualifies, right?

Perfect HFBoards trade proposal of the week
User "yideboit" gets thoroughly stupid.

[quote]To Toronto:

Matt Duchene
2011 1st (11th overall via St. Louis)
Conditional 2012 pick (4th round if Bozak signed 7th if not signed)

To Colorado:
Nazem Kadri
Jussi Rynnas or Ben Scrivens (Colorado's choice)
Tyler Bozak's rights
2011 1st (24th overall via Philadelphia)
2012 1st (Toronto)
2011 3rd (85th overall via Philadelphia)
Conditional 2012 pick (Based on Duchene's total points - more than 80=2nd rounder 70-79=3rd rounder, 60-69=4th rounder, under 59=5th rounder)[/quote]

You might remember me from such films as "The Greatest Story Ever Hula-ed" and "They Came to Burgle Carnegie Hall."

Ryan Lambert publishes hockey awesomeness rather infrequently over at The Two-Line Pass. Check it out, why don't you? Or you can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter if you so desire.

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