Photo credit: Kyle Mace
Known fighter Joel Rechlicz has played 5 minutes and 25 seconds of Capitals hockey this year. In his six shifts, he saw one shot go on his net and zero at the other. He has amassed no penalties and recorded no turnovers. He did ice the puck once though. That was fun.
Rechlicz’s one-year contract is for $525,000– which will count towards the Capitals’ already stressed salary cap. Rechlicz is a pure fighter, a dying breed in pro hockey. Adding him to the roster of the Washington Capitals (whose woes include a lacking offense, malformed defense, and poor road performances– but not fighting) seemed like an arbitrary acquisition– one that does not improve their prospects for winning and fritters away precious salary cap space just before the trade deadline.
But for all his detractors, Wrecker also has some defenders. On Wednesday’s edition of the Capitals Report podcast, Mike Vogel of WashingtonCaps.com and radio play-by-play guy John Walton discussed and defended the value of Rechlicz.
Mike Vogel: Rechlicz got two shifts [Tuesday] night. I think he would have got more ice if that game had been a little different score-wise, if it wouldn’t have been tight all the way. . . .
John Walton: Some of the media that were openly questioning the Rechlicz decision: “If you were gonna call someone up for two minutes, well why would you do it?” Well, there’s a very good reason. Because he’s not playing doesn’t mean his specter isn’t sitting over there.
And Steve Downie had a terrific assist on their first goal when Purcell scored. He was a choir boy last night. You didn’t see anything except the high stick that he had, which I don’t think there was any intent behind. Boy, there sure wasn’t much going on there. I think that changed the game from Washington’s perspective for the better. I think there absolutely was a reason [Rechlicz was there] and it was to negate Steve Downie…
Mike Vogel: Downie defintiely wasn’t running around trying to fight Karl Alzner last night. And he had one hit in 18:43 seconds of work.
John Walton: What does that yell you?
Mike Vogel: That was far below his numbers from a hit-to-minutes ratio.
John Walton: Number 54 [Rechlicz] might have had something to do with it
Steve Downie is a noted pest in the Southeast Division and one of the least liked guys in the league. He has has 5 fights this season and more than 100 penalty minutes. On January 13, Downie hassled Karl Alzner until he submitted to a fight.
Vogel and Walton’s apparent assertion is that the threat of violence from Rechlicz was enough to discourage Downie from bad behavior, and that his 1 hit in 18:43 of ice time was evidence of this.
I’m not sure a guy with 34 career fights can be dissuaded by ominous threat of one more, but I’m not a fighter, so what do I know? Instead, I’ll dispute the part about Downie’s hit total being proof of good behavior.
Steve Downie averages 15:23 on ice during home games this season– during which he averages about 1.4 hits. On Tuesday, Downie recorded 1 hit in 18:43 of ice time. It was the 12th home game (out of 21) in which he delivered one hit or none.
I’ve got three thoughts, or one-tenth of a Friedman:
- Downie’s performance was not markedly different from the past.
- The assumption that Rechlicz’s presence had any effect is specious.
- $525,000 is a lot of money.
There is obvious value in keeping a team linchpin like Karl Alzner out of a fight, but I don’t see any reason why having Joel Rechlicz in a sweater helps avoid that fight. I also don’t see how a hit– which the NHL defines as a body check that removes the opposing player from the puck– correlates with the naughty behavior that Wrecker’s mere presence supposedly discourages.
We’ve discussed this before, but the peace-through-strength argument is ludicrous. Fighters fight to protect their teammates. When there are no teammates to protect, they fight to protect their jobs. The result of hiring a fighter is escalation and self-fulfillment.
It’s only been two games, but there’s no reason for us to think that Joel Rechlicz a) has something positive to contribute to this team, and b) will even have the opportunity to prove us wrong. And his presence diminished the ice time of Cody Eakin and Joel Ward and shortened an already short bench. The signing of a single-function goon while the Caps are already dysfunctional is absurd.
Perhaps his tenure with the big club will be temporary, but that would mean his presence was just another distraction for a team that has not yet mastered its new man-to-man defense and cannot sustain enough offense to outshoot opponents.
It’s unfair to make conclusions about the intent of decision-makers within the Capitals organization. So instead of casting aspersions and making guesses, we’re just bewildered.