"I want to play a little longer. This year, another year, a couple years — I want to put those people who doubt you to rest."There's no disputing Mark Recchi's closer to the end of his career than most, and I'm not going to go on and on about how he managed two goals in his first game with the Atlanta Thrashers.
After all, he was minus one and his team did lose the game. (The minus came as the result of being on the ice for an empty netter.)
But Recchi's been pretty soundly trashed the past few weeks for a 39-year-old greybeard who (1) had 68 points last season, the majority of which were at even strength (2) played nearly 20 minutes a game, (3) played on one of the top power plays in the league, and (4) faced the most difficult opposition among Penguins forwards. Sure, he played 70 per cent of his ice time alongside Sidney Crosby, but there were 47 NHLers ranked ahead of Recchi in terms of quality of teammates at even strength last season, including fellow Crosby linemate Ryan Malone, who managed all of 31 points last season.
The golden touch doesn't extend to everyone, apparently.
The media in Pittsburgh certainly weren't on his side, and the blogosphere's predicted his end, but Recchi's found a perfect spot in Atlanta, a team that's always been short on secondary scoring and where he can mesh with offensive stars like Ilya Kovalchuk and Marian Hossa. He went through a brutal slump to end the 2006-07 season — and likely needed a change of scenery in the off-season — but the one thing he didn't get enough of a chance to do was to play a depth, energy role in Pittsburgh, and that's where I think Recchi can excel.
The list of Penguins who have played poorly this season is a long one, and judging by recent results, little has changed in the wake of shuttling out a scapegoat. Jordan Staal's been on the ice for twice as many even-strength goals against as for, and players like Petr Sykora, Ryan Whitney, Colby Armstrong, Adam Hall, Gary Roberts, Erik Christensen, Darryl Sydor and Georges Laraque have all been lit up against relatively limp opposition.
Worst of all, however, the Penguins have allowed 28 goals against on the penalty kill, fifth most in the league.
And Recchi wasn't on the ice for a single one.
"Mark Recchi is a legend. A guy like me, I grew up watching him and idolizing him," teammate Eric Perrin told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution yesterday. "He's one of those small guys that I like to emulate. He's a feisty guy who gets his nose dirty all the time."
Underrated way back when, underrated now. But here's one guy who just isn't going to quit.