Sunday, March 29, 2009

When TOI Doesn’t Tell the Whole Story - Joel Rechlicz

Saturday morning I was listening to an interview with Islanders ex-captain, Bill Guerin, on XM Home Ice.

Although he is doing well with the “guins” (as I actually heard their radio announcer call them!), he spoke of how his ice time has been significantly reduced with his new team.

It was the first time I had heard a player discuss a reduction in TOI in a positive manner. He said he understood "his role" and is there to make the most of it. But the truth is, TOI and event summary stats don’t always tell you an NHLer’s true worth.

This is the case with Islanders Sound Tiger call up, Joel Rechlicz. The summary sheet for Saturday’s game against the Flyers listed a total TOI of 5:25 with 11 shifts, averaging 29 seconds. He also had five penalty minutes, 1 blocked shot and 1 shot on goal.

What are not on the stat sheet are the intangibles he brings to the game --the intangibles that coach Scott Gordon is looking for.

As fans we’ve chanted others’ names many times in the Coliseum: Cairns, Godard, Asham and a personal favorite of mine, Steve Webb. They were the guys who brought the crowd back into the game when it was slipping away; the ones that made you stand up and hold your breath with every check or hit and then cheer wildly whether they won or lost a battle.

At times, the skating ability of Cairns and Godard were a liability. Steve Webb was a pin-ball that knew his limited role. Asham was the only one that could actually score occasionally. They were all crowd pleasers. They were all loved.

Earlier this season, many of those in Islanders Country complained about the lack of toughness on this team --too soft, too small and too often, run over -- none of that was present in Saturday’s game.

From returning veteran Doug Weight uncharacteristic dropping the gloves to stand up for a teammate, (receiving a whopping 17 minutes of penalties!) to Nate Thompson, to Tim Jackman to Brendan Witt (who wanted to get something going, but was stopped); this team has come to the point where they “stick up for each other and that’s a good sign that our team is coming together.”

This development makes Scott Gordon very happy as he smiled for the press in the post game.

As Joel Rechlicz dropped the gloves with Riley Cote for what seemed like forever. (I can tell it’s “forever” when I can snap off four photos when my camera batteries are half dead.) I held my breath as the two men went at it on open ice then hit the glass to continue. I struggled to watch as everyone in the arena was on their feet, cheering them on...BOTH of them.

Mind you, there were six busloads of Flyers fans in attendance and you could hear their chants throughout the game. It was a verbal battle in the stands.

“He did a good job.” Scott Gordon commented about Joel when asked in the post game. "He’s a high energy guy. He steps on the ice and he leaves everything out there.” Gordon appreciates his play as well as his ability to drop the gloves when he has too. He also appreciates what he brings on the bench. “And he’s only 20 years old.” Gordon smiled.

Although I think "the Recker" is actually legal drinking age of 21. But we’ll let Gordon slide on this since he has so many youngsters on his bench.

I had the opportunity to stop Joel in the locker room before the media descended on him like locusts.

I introduced myself and even with a gashed cheek and swollen right eye, he returned a warm, genuine smile. He started out by asking ME a question, the one that every NHLer wants to know. “How’d you like the game?”

We chatted about the fight and about my UNH jersey. He said he was fine with the fighting and thought the Flyer fans being so loud added something extra to the game. I had asked him if his hands were sore from his previous fight, he admitted "a little." But I think that right eye will be a little more painful than his hands come Sunday.

When Newsday's Greg Logan and the others crowded around him to ask questions, I backed away two steps and just listened. I was very impressed when he said “I’m going to do everything possible to keep learning.” Joel has had plenty of learning experiences since 2004. He's been on more than a handful of teams in several leagues. He seems to be a very eager student.

Much like Doug Weight, he said he is happy with this team the way it is right now. “The guys are great. Real supportive.”

He was very patient, articulate and engaging with the media as he adjusted the ice pack beneath his under armor. I think he’s got this interview process down pat.

Keep an eye out for him. If this is the team that we will be seeing next season, then Joel Rechlicz is making a strong case for himself to be on it. Even with only 5:25 of ice time, he's making the best possible use of it.

I can see a packed coliseum chanting "Reck-Er! Reck-Er!" just as they have done in Bridgeport.

Just for a giggle: The biggest laugh in the locker room Saturday night was when the Maven’s cell went off before interviewing Doug Weight. Stan told the caller “I have to do an interview.” I couldn’t help but laugh. Weight in turned said “Okay, let’s wait for Stan. He’s earned it.” But about 15 seconds later, the cell phone went off again. No one else would be able to get away with that. It was a laugh riot.

Also, as much as I adore seeing Sean Bergenheim in a suit, I miss seeing him on the ice. He once again promised me last night "I'm fine. I'll be back soon." Sean... you're running out of daylight.


Anonymous said...

Asham was the only one that could actually score occasionally.

so there....

thats my story and I'm sticking to it.

fscfaceoff said...

Rechlicz isn't a man...he's an animal. A man-animal...a manimal if you will.

Aside from being a "beast" on the ice, you gotta love this guy's work ethic. To go from Utah to the big show in under a year is something special. Here's to one of the most pleasant surprises this year!