Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Recchi rides the Lightning

Before I get into the interesting grab bag of forwards the Lightning have put together, a few words on Mark Recchi signing a $1.25-million contract with Tampa Bay.

Recchi was on a bit of a roller coaster last season. He started the year on a powerhouse in Pittsburgh, was placed on waivers early on and ended up in Atlanta, where a point-a-game start through 20 games turned into diminishing returns as things fell apart with the Thrashers.

Recchi ended up with 40 points in 53 games in Atlanta, but was also minus-16 — which included a stretch late in the year when he went minus-9 in 13 games.

Even at 40, Recchi proved he can still be a pretty effective player in the right situation. He was eaten alive last season at even strength, and really shouldn't be played against top opposition or without decent defensive linemates, but on the power play, he remains a major threat.

Recchi finished 15th in the league in points per minute at 5-on-4, and could really excel in that role with the high-powered Lightning.

He also is incredibly durable, so much so that I'd wager he's likely missed the fewest games in a 1,400+ game career ever. Recchi has played 78 games or more in thirteen of his 17 non-lockout seasons, averaging 79 games played a year.

He played 18 minutes a night last season, far too many given his age, but in a third-line and special teams role, should be able to produce 20 goals and 50+ points at a bargain price.

If Joe Sakic retires, he'll also be the NHL's active career scoring leader next season. And with another 44 points, he'll pass Brett Hull, Luc Robitaille, Jari Kurri, Dale Hawerchuk, Doug Gilmour, Adam Oates and Bryan Trottier into 14th on the all-time scoring list.

Not too shabby.

The real question in Tampa these days (one of them, anyway) is where all of these new bodies are going to play. Including the newly inked trio of Recchi, Evgeny Artyukhin and Brandon Bochenski, I count 17 NHL-calibre forwards on the roster, which is at least four too many in my books.

The Lightning's potential line combinations:

Prospal - Lecavalier - St. Louis
Malone - Stamkos - Vrbata
Jokinen - Halpern - Recchi
Roberts - Craig - Hall

That looks like a pretty darn solid top 12, but it leaves Michel Ouellet, Artyukhin, Jason Ward, Nick Tarnasky and Bochenski on the sidelines.

Believe it or not, at some point in the coming weeks (or months), the Lightning has more deals in the works. I imagine they won't want to increase payroll over the $48-million currently accounted for, but a veteran defenceman is, at this point, a must.

Filip Kuba is, at the moment, the only Tampa blueliner with more than 220 games played.
  • Lightning co-owner Len Barrie predicts his team wins the Southeast Division. I don't know about that, but I'm comfortable enough predicting they'll be better than last season

  • Greg Wyshynski uses a nonsensical argument to outline why the Dan Boyle incident won't scare players off from signing in Tampa. I don't mind criticism, but how on earth does the fact Malone, Vrbata, Prospal, Roberts, etc., signed well before the Boyle trade have any relation to what I talked about here?

  • And Olaf Kolzig sounds pretty determined to have a rebound campaign in 2008-09. They're going to need him
As I said to Lyle Richardson the other day, it's a good time to be a Lightning beat writer. Unless you were hoping for some holidays.

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At 3:41 a.m., July 09, 2008, Blogger Gare Joyce said...

Mr M,

As far as most durable in that games-played bracket, start with Larry Murphy. Ray Bourque was once asked if he thought he would ever catch up to Murphy's numbers for games played and he had the perfect reply: "I hope so, I came into the league one season before he did."

At 9:20 a.m., July 09, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Halpern wrecked his knee in the World Championships so that's one spot that's opened up.

At 9:38 a.m., July 09, 2008, Blogger Brad said...

Word is that Jussi Jokinen will be dealt, opening up a spot in the top-9.

At 10:22 a.m., July 09, 2008, Blogger wade little said...

With the Boyle/Barrie scandal... I'd say you're spot on.

He was disrespected from the get-go, right when he was re-signed. Insiders knew that when Barrie and the boys were the "incoming ownership group", Boyle wasn't to be in the plans - everyone thought he was going to be traded.

Problem is, the incoming ownership group approved the deal (Boyle's extension AND Richards' trade)... going against what they really wanted. What they should have done was trade Dan at the deadline, or let him go at July 1st. Instead, they made him think he was part of their long-term plans, putting Boyle in a position to plan for his family's future (wife, kid... you know).

That's bad business ethics, whether they like it or not.

At 11:02 a.m., July 09, 2008, Blogger saskhab said...

Yeah, Halpern will start the year on the LTIR for sure. His injury was quite severe and could be up to a year-long rehab process.

I assume on your lines that'd mean that as of right now, Artyukhin or Tarnasky draws in on the 4th line and Craig gets bumped to the 3rd. There are still a couple of bodies to be moved around, likely Jokinen being the most significant of them.

I'm surprised Jason Ward has lasted this long in the NHL, so I think he's at his end. Bochenski has never really established himself as a regular.

At 2:30 p.m., July 09, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

a veteran defenceman is, at this point, a must.

...Darryl Sydor should fit right in!

At 2:45 p.m., July 09, 2008, Blogger VeryProudofYa said...

I think Bochenski's contract is a two-way this upcoming season, and next year becomes a one-way, so chances are he'll sit this year out in the minors.

At 3:03 p.m., July 09, 2008, Blogger Raphe said...

Why they traded Boyle, I have no idea. The Lightning need defensemen, and yet they're willing to let one (highly paid one) go, yet sign a few very old players (Recchi, Roberts) whose careers are on a downswing.

I'd ask who's running the team, but we already know that nobody is.

At 3:05 p.m., July 09, 2008, Blogger J. Michael Neal said...

Yeah, Larry Murphy. He played two seasons more than Recchi has so far. If Recchi plays in 205 games over the next two years, he'll have played in as many games as Murphy in the same time. Given that it's only an 82 game season, that's going to be pretty hard.

Nick Lidstrom has played in two fewer seasons than Recchi, and if he plays 158 of the 164 games, he'll have played as many as Recchi.

At 3:51 p.m., July 09, 2008, Blogger I Have Kasparaitis said...

What is going on in TB? This is pure insanity ... getting rid of Boyle was extremely stupid and they have no real defense ... just forwards ... adding a few defensive forwards isn't going to do anything if the goalie isn't protected ... some people shouldn't be allowed to own hockey teams because look at it ...

I guess I'm being a bit critical before anything actually happens but just look at what they are doing ...

At 4:02 p.m., July 09, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Olli Jokinen has missed three games during last six seasons but every playoff game in his NHL career.


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