Does Joel Rechlicz Really Have A Place In The NHL?

On Monday morning the Washington Capitals signed the leader of penalty minutes in the AHL, Joel Rechlicz, to a one-year NHL contract and called him up to play in the Capitals first game since the All Star break. In that game, he played a total of 1:49 in two shifts, which both came in the first period of the Capitals 4-3 OT loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning. So that brings up the question, does Joel Rechlicz really have a place in the NHL, especially on the Capitals roster?

By now, everyone knows the style of play that Capitals head coach Dale Hunter played back when he still laced the skates up on a nightly basis. He was a tough guy, grinder, fighter, but he was also capable of making plays and putting the puck in the back of the net. He was just under a .75 ppg player throughout his career of 1,407 games. He is the ONLY player in NHL history to rack up over 1,000 points and over 3,000 penalty minutes in his career.

Not many were, or will ever be like him, because the NHL is trending away from enforcers. With the skill set that most of the players in the NHL possess, there is just no need for a tough guy in the lineup that cannot put the puck in the back of the net or help achieve that goal. Especially when that grinder is only getting 1:49 of ice time. Maybe it was because the Lightning don’t have many people that are willing to drop the gloves, but even I know that if there is a player that gets that limited ice time, it is limiting the overall roster of the team by taking one player away.

Maybe Rechlicz will have a better turnout tonight, with the possibility of fighting Kris Barch, but I don’t see him getting more than five minutes of ice time. No offense to Dale Hunter, but this just seems like it is hindering the Capitals more than helping them in the long run. The breed of enforcers is dying out in the NHL, and the Capitals need to realize it. Players like Matt Hendricks, who can drop the gloves nightly, but can also score goals and help the team offensively, are still welcomed, but players who are there to just fight need to go. They slow the team down and don’t provide enough on the offensive side of things.

Thankfully Alexander Ovechkin will be returning to the lineup after tonight’s game after serving his three-game suspension. This will force someone out of a roster spot, most likely Rechlicz, and he will be sent back down to the Hershey Bears, and hopefully he won’t be seen sporting the Capitals jersey for a long, long time.

Follow Matthew on twitter @BurntFrosty.

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  • Deb

    I totally disagree with you about the enforcers in the NHL..the enforcers give a presence of strength..when the other team is bullying a player who is small but very good at making goals. Just like the linebackers in football..what can they do but push and enforce. You dont see them catching a pass or making a touch down. There is always a reason for a tough guy to be there to answer the bell when it rings. I think recker will bring a toughness to the team when it is needed. I hope they never take the enforcers off the teams..what a dull game it would be..points are great but a little Enforcement is something that really gets the crowds excited!!!!

    • Matt Geiser


      How can you even start to compare hockey to football? They are two completely different sports with different concepts and team goals. As I stated, grinders that are capable of scoring while still sticking up for the more skilled and smaller players. I honestly believe that the staged fights that were present just a few years ago have vanished completely from the league. Players are too skilled to have these big, lumbering enforcers on the ice that can’t keep up. I do still support fights in the NHL, it’s needed, it’s part of the sport BUT the fighters also need to be able to contribute positively and not just take penalties.

  • Jerry L Rivas


    Did you notice how little Downie acted up in last night’s game with the Caps? Check back through Cap-Bolt games through the playoffs last year and notice a difference in Downie’s style? I do! Perhaps he has just rehabilitated himself? Doubtful. Perhaps the mere presence –unusual since Brash left– of a real enforcer in the Caps lineup will keep the chippie players more in line. And, then, there is Rene Borque on Saturday. Think the Caps tought him a lesson in their last game? I don’t think so. Perhaps Recker hangs in there through Satuday’s game? And then can be recalled depending on the opponent. Just ranting, too.

    • Matt Geiser


      I did notice how Downie was more calm and didn’t stir the pot at all last night, but do you really think that just having Reichlicz on the bench helped the team? As I stated in the article, he played a total of 1:49 in the entire game, and that was in the first period. I feel Downie could have caused some antics if he really wanted to.

      As for facing Bourque on Saturday, I would love to see someone put him in his place, but I feel like Erskine is fully capable of doing that, while still positively influencing the team.

      I’m just stating my case as to why I don’t think true fighters should still be in the NHL. Team’s need offensive power, as well as a strong defense. I fully support grinders that are capable of keeping other grinders in their place, while contributing to the offense too.

    • Troy Pfaff

      Comparing Downie’s actions in the playoffs and in a regular season game isn’t fair. Of course his style of play is going to be different in the postseason. It’s do-or-die and every player is running on adrenaline.

  • Tony


    Obviously youve never played a game of real hockey in your life. For the record, as an ex pro, when there were more tough guys, and accountability,the game was better and generated more revenue, which is the bottom line in all pro sports. The reason why there are enforcers in the NHL is the same reason why we have policemen on the streets. What rechlisz or any other tough guy brings to the game isn’t measured in goals in assists, but in a code of honor, to serve and protect the other 20 guys in the room.

    • Matt Geiser


      I have played hockey, for 14 years to be exact and I respect what the tough guys did for my team. However, I am not talking about the NHL back when 1 out of 3 players were tough guys. I am talking about current day, post-lockout NHL where the sport is about high scores and amazing skills. I’m not saying grinders aren’t needed. Every team needs a guy that can step up for the “weaker” players, but guys like Rechlicz, who are on the bench 57 minutes of a game just to fight, are not needed any more. I’m not sure if you saw the Capitals game last night, but Rechlicz wanted to fight Kris Barch and Barch denied him. Rechlicz spent the rest of the game on the end of the bench with nothing to contribute to the team. Therefore, he was a waste of roster space for the game. The Capitals have both Hendricks and Erskine that can, and will, step up to fight anyone.

  • Scott

    Go to Giant Center on a night when Wrecker is taking the ice for Hershey. The croud is electric. He is the nicest guy in the world off the ice and just plain mean on the ice. He is a great asset to the locker room and the bench of any team plus a gold mine in shirt sales. He will take a punch with a smile on his face as long as its in defense of or for the common good of the team.

    • Deb

      Ok ..I guess the all teams sports are to make goals..Football, basketball whatever. Baseball even has fights..have not seen one in golf.
      I am a true Hershey bears fan..You have no idea how tough Joel is on the ice. He brings the team up..The fights are awesome!! He brings electricity to the ice! If it helps motivate a team to play harder, excites the crowd, and sells tickets it can’t be all bad. Let Recker do his job..I think he does what he is paid for. I have an idea that the coach knows exactly what he is doing..Truely I am glad he has an opportunity to be with the Caps..but we sure will miss him in hershey..The guys love him on the team..He was the #1 fan favorite in hershey..guess why??? All he had to do was play 1 min. 49 secs for the caps..the other team knew he was there. No antics as you said..but I am looking forward to seeing him handle those..and he can!!!
      ALSO..thanks Jerry, Troy and Scott. I think you may have seen our “Recker” fight!!!

      • Matt Geiser

        That’s great, I’m a Bears fan myself and I appreciate what the guy does for sticking up for his teammates. But that stuff really only goes on in the AHL and lower leagues…anyone in the NHL that has played 27 games in a season and has 180 penalty minutes will not make it long term in the league. Personally, I think that he is a career AHLer, he plays the same style that Sheldon Souray played a few years ago for the Bears. Go out, intimidate the opposing team, and fight. That’s not what the NHL is about though, they’re about the fast, skilled players that bring excitement to the game. Sure, fights are great to watch and can get the crowd in the game, but at this point in time, when the Capitals are losing games, they need goal scorers on the bench and not a fighter.

    • Matt Geiser

      That’s great that he is the nicest guy off the ice, look around the NHL and AHL, most tough guys and fighters are the nicest men around. But that doesn’t mean they are an intricate part of the game anymore. If Matt Hendricks can take and throw a punch, while putting points up at the same time then he’s more valuable to the team. And about sales, look around the NHL, who sells the tickets anymore? Alex Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby, Steven Stamkos…all players who are high octane offensive players that score game in and game out.

  • Deb

    well obviously this could go on this is all I am in for. I think the guy is great and does a great job for the team..Everyone in every job on earth gets paid according to their position and the job they do. As long as he is doing a good job at what he is getting paid for and is getting the pay check..Good for him…Go Recker!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • JMill

    “he plays the same style that Sheldon Souray played a few years ago for the Bears. Go out, intimidate the opposing team, and fight.”

    To compare him to Souray is a huge error & you may want to re-think that one. That was just last year. Souray was a lazy pretty boy, didn’t intimidate anyone, getting paid NHL dollars, biding his time on the Bear’s roster. I’ve only had season tix two years, and I love this team of Eakin, McFlickier, Bourque, and yes, even Joel MUCH better than Souray and a few others last year. Rechlicz has a few purposes and does them with great energy. Unlike the lazy, non-skating, reaching and grabbing players on the same team. His hustle and attitude is infectious on his teammates & really gets THEM, his TEAMMATES hustling much more. That has value in the AHL, not just the punches thrown. Matt, I would prefer Recker back in Hershey so I can enjoy his HUSTLE and desire to be in the game. Even on the Bears team, he’s only in for a few shifts. But it’s effective.

    • Matt Geiser

      Ok, maybe I made a mistake making a comparison to Sheldon Souray. He was just getting by making good money on an AHL team. I do agree that Rechlicz goes out and puts everything he has to give during games in the AHL. He does fire his teammates up and gets the crowd going, but the point of this article was to ask if he had a place in the NHL. I personally don’t think so. In his 3 games, he has played only 6 minutes and change. That’s not enough to make an impact on a game in the NHL, unless he does fight someone…which he hasn’t.

      • JMill

        And I wasn’t in attendance to see if he had any impact whatsoever on his teammates during those 3 games, so I’d have to defer to you. My point was that it’s his attitude and hustle, not his fighting, that motivates them. At the Bears games it’s almost humorous how he can’t/doesn’t sit down on the bench, he’s just pumped and into the game. Does that rah-rah spirit ONLY belong in the AHL? Dunno, you can be the judge of that. I’m not there watching. But from my seats, it’s a team-strengthening character trait.

        My opinion of the story is that mentioning him only as the leader in penalty minutes, and that that his value is only as a fighter is an error of omission. Granted, it sucks when writers use “intangibles” as a crutch. However, as a writer, I trust you could describe the emotional impact he has on a team and fans.

        Thanks for the platform to discuss.