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, one blocked shot and one 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 pinball 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's uncharacteristic dropping the gloves to stand up for a teammate to Nate Thompson, to Tim Jackman to Brendan Witt, 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.
Joel Rechlicz dropped the gloves with Riley Cote for what seemed like forever. 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 said 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 previously 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 on the Coliseum ice, then Joel Rechlicz is making a strong case to be on it. Even with only 5:25 of ice time, he's making the best possible use of it.