The Washington Capitals recalled “forward” Joel Rechlicz Monday in anticipation of a three-game road trip. The 6’4″, 220 Rechlicz, 24 (and known of course as “Wrecker”), has one goal and one assist this season with AHL Hershey. He also happens to lead the AHL in penalty minutes with 184 in 27 games. Last season, he had 132 PIMs in 28 games with the Bears.
Rechlicz had a cup of coffee with a terrible Islanders team in ’08-’09, accumulating one assist and 95 PIMs in 23 games. Other than that, Wrecker has bounced around the “A” beating people up his entire pro career.
I’ve never met Joel Rechlicz. He may be full of the most wonderful leadership-y intangibles imaginable. But his contribution on the ice is nothing more than the willingness to trade punches. He doesn’t add “toughness” to the Caps’ actual play, because he spends his entire shift either looking for the other team’s tough guy or dropping them right off a face-off in a staged altercation.
We assume his role on the road trip is his mere presence to teams such as Tampa Bay and Montreal, both of whom employ antagonists who like to start stuff they don’t usually finish. Steve Downie and Rene Bourque are the type of player who cheap-shot skilled players or goad their opponents into retaliatory penalties.
Rarely do they fight on their own, unless it’s in retribution for an earlier deed, such as when Matt Hendricks fought (and lost) to Bourque on the Caps trip into Montreal last week to answer for Bourque’s head-shot to Nick Backstrom (who — by the way — didn’t even skate over the All-Star break and has been out since early January with concussion symptoms).
Whether Rechlicz gets a sweater or not for any of these games is really immaterial. Just the possibility of it happening could be deterrent enough for any shenanigans.
Again, no disrespect to Rechlicz the person, because I understand he’s just trying to make a living. Since he has no ascertainable hockey skill, he has to resort to being this type of player. I also understand how — and why — this plays so big in the “A”. It’s part of the show.
But it saddens me that someone in the Caps organization really felt like they needed to roster a player like Rechlicz. They even had to sign him to an NHL contract first to bring him up, counting against the 50 total contract the team can carry this season.
I guess with Matt Hendricks’ gruesome ear injury last week as an obvious target, perhaps the Caps are trying to lift that burden off of Hendy until the ear heals fully. He certainly doesn’t need to open that thing up again. The team’s best fighter, John Erskine, has played sporadically since Coach Dale Hunter took over, and when he does play his minutes have been very carefully managed. If Erskine would serve time for a fight, the Caps would be left to play with just five defensemen.
Both Hendricks and Erskine, however they may be limited, bring more to the ice than just their pugilistic skills. That won’t be the case with Rechlicz.
Rechlicz gives the Caps a big, brawny, willing fighter on the roster, whose playing time is only determined by when and if he needs to fight. Again, I understand the reasoning behind it. That doesn’t mean I have to like it.
Dave Nichols is Editor-in-Chief of District Sports Page. He is credentialed to cover the Nats and the Caps, and previously wrote Nats News Network and Caps News Network. Dave’s first sports hero was Bobby Dandridge. Follow Dave’s Capitals coverage on Twitter @CapitalsDSP.