Sports fans might know that putting on the New York Yankees’ pinstripes can rejuvenate a player, but the Boston Bruins’ “spoked-B” could have similar results. Mark Recchi was one of the team’s leading scorers in his final season during the 2011 Stanley Cup run, yet Brian Rolston’s twilight tide turn is even more surprising.
Kirk Luedeke caught up with Rolston, who has three points in three playoff contests, a five-game points streak and 17 points in 15 games since March 15.
Asked Brian Rolston after the game how gratifying it was to be back in Boston- he paused & then quietly said: “More than any words can say.”
One of the sadder sights in sports comes when a once-great player hangs on way too long. While I don’t begrudge an athlete for getting every ounce of playing time out of their bodies before retirement is forced upon them, it often remains a sad thing to see.
The great play of seemingly over-the-hill players during the 2010-11 season and its accompanying postseason has been a heartening storyline. Nicklas Lidstrom and Teemu Selanne didn’t just belong on the ice despite being in the plus-40 club, they remained among the better (if not best) players in their positions.
Mark Recchi probably has a foot in each side right now. His speed is diminished to the extent that he can’t always get where he wants to go, but his fantastic instincts and solid finishing ability help him to remain an asset. He’s not just out there because of the name on the back of his jersey.
Still, at 43 years old, he must realize that he’s almost certainly in the twilight of his career. With that in mind, Recchi hopes to go out a Stanley Cup winner (he admitted that he would retire for sure if the Boston Bruins win the Cup, for one thing). After fielding criticism late in the Tampa Bay Lightning series and early in the Cup finals, Recchi has burned his critics once again, scoring a goal in Game 2, two goals in Game 3 and collecting three assists in Game 6. That works out to a point per game average in the championship round at 43, leading all scorers in the series. He spoke to NHL.com about Wednesday possibly being the final game of his NHL career.
“It crosses my mind, but, you know, I have a job to do out there for the guys and I can’t put those thoughts in my head,” Recchi said if he had thought Game 6 could have been his last. “I’m going to lay it on the line one more time and see where it takes me after that. No matter what, it’s been a great 22 years, and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. This has been one of my best ones, regardless of what happens, and I’m just still proud to play in the NHL.”
One more Cup victory would be a tidy finish to a great career. He would also finish the playoffs the same way he began his playoff career at 22 years old: with a Stanley Cup raised over his head. He made his first postseason appearance in his third season with the Pittsburgh Penguins, scoring 34 points in 24 games for his greatest playoff run ever. The Penguins then decided to trade him to the Philadelphia Flyers the following season, so he wouldn’t get a chance to repeat with that team. Despite being a productive player for years since, it took him 15 years to win it all again when he won a Cup with the 2005-06 Carolina Hurricanes.
Recchi has accomplished just about anything he could have hoped for, so there would be no shame in retiring whether he wins or loses on Wednesday. That being said, you can’t blame him for pulling for one last sip from the Cup.
Poll: Is Mark Recchi’s career Hall of Fame material?
A season after Chris Chelios retired, older players managed to steal the spotlight with startling frequency. The most obvious example was Nicklas Lidstrom, who at 41 years old wasn’t just the Detroit Red Wings’ best defenseman but maybe the best blueliner in the NHL. Teemu Selanne (40) recorded 80 points in 73 games and six goals in six playoff contests. Dwayne Roloson (41) was one of the stories of the 2011 playoffs, taking the Tampa Bay Lightning within one win of the Stanley Cup Finals.
Yet 43-year-old Boston Bruins winger Mark Recchi outlasted them all in the 2011 playoffs. When you think about legacies, Recchi’s career might generate some serious debates in the Hockey Hall of Fame whenever he decides to finally hang up his skates.
The argument in favor of Recchi
The biggest numbers in favor of Recchi making the Hall of Fame are the most obvious ones: he has 1,533 points scored in 1,652 regular season games and 140 points in 182 career playoff games. Those 1,533 points rank him 12th all-time in total points while his 577 regular season goals rank him 19th in league history. Recchi won two Stanley Cups – one in his first career trip to the postseason with the Pittsburgh Penguins (1990-91; 34 points) and another with the Carolina Hurricanes 15 years later (2005-06; 16 points). Recchi made seven appearances in All-Star Games in his lengthy career, with the most recent trip coming in 1999-2000.
Digging deeper with hockey-reference.com, here are a few seasons in which he ranked in the top 10 in points: 90-91 (113 points; 4th place), 92-93 (123 pts; 10th) 93-94 (107 pts; 5th), 99-00 (91 pts; 3rd). He also was ninth in the NHL in goal scoring once, finding the net 43 times in 91-92. His career high for a single season is 53 goals in 92-93, his only 50+ goal season.
The argument against Recchi
Recchi is the a superb example of the “quantity vs. quality” paradigm. Sure, he was very good for a long time, but how often was he truly elite? He made one Second All-Star team and never made the first team in his career. Recchi hasn’t made a regular All-Star team in 11 years, spending a decade going from a very good player to a good one to his current state as a remarkably plucky and useful asset. That’s an outstanding achievement (with an impressive 10 points in 13 games in the 2010 playoffs), but is it the kind of run that makes him a worthy Hall of Fame inductee?
If the Hockey Hall of Fame had a reputation for being extremely exclusive, I would flatly deny Recchi’s worthiness. Being very good for a long time (and at least solid for a ridiculously long time) is an astounding achievement, but some will point out that he may not have been a truly elite player for much – if any – of his career.
That being said, the HHOF tends to reward longevity, big overall totals and strength of character more than a player’s relative dominance. Having some championship jewelry doesn’t hurt either. Recchi gets a big check mark in those essential areas, so my guess is that he would make it in pretty easily. After all, it’s tough to stare down 1,533 points and deny him enshrinement.
What do you think, though? Does Recchi deserve to be in the Hall of Fame once he retires or not? Let us know in the poll.