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.