Just over a month ago on August 12th, the Pittsburgh Penguins announced that they would not be renewing the contracts of three of their assistant coaches: Sergei Gonchar, Jacques Martin and Mark Recchi were all let go from the organization at the same time. One would not have to wait long to find his next NHL gig. The New Jersey Devils announced that Recchi had been hired as part of new Head Coach Lindy Ruff’s staff less than a month later on September 9th. Today we take a brief look at what Recchi did while in Pittsburgh (not while playing for them) as well as the pros and cons that could result from this hire.
Recchi With the Pens
Recchi was originally brought back to the Pittsburgh organization during the 2014 offseason, where he was named player development coach. He would receive a promotion to Director of Player Development in the summer of 2017, but less than a month later, would replace Rick Tocchet (who had left for Arizona) as an assistant coach.
It’s difficult to evaluate the role Recchi played in developing players in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton both due to the short nature of his tenure, as well as the timing of it. Three years is not a long amount of time to develop a crop of prospects (especially ones that need multiple years of development before being NHL ready), and I would argue at most, he would have had long-term impact on one draft class. Additionally, the AHL Pens didn’t have much in the prospect cupboard at the time (and realistically, still don’t) due to them being highly competitive. Recchi was part of two Stanley Cup wins with the organization during this time (2016, 2017) and with Pittsburgh firmly in “win-now” mode at the time, the only first round selection they had during this time was Kasperi Kapanen, who was traded a year into Recchi’s tenure to help acquire Phil Kessel.
We can however look at Recchi’s role as an assistant coach, as he would be working with the offense in his time behind the bench. Things started off well for him in 2017-18, with the Penguins offense 3rd in goals for and 1st in power play percentage. While 2018-19 was not as strong, the team being 6th overall in GF and 5th in PP % is still really strong. This past season is where things began to falter however, with the Pens overall offense being 10th (goals for per games played to be fair to all teams) and the PP crashing to 16th. Obviously things could’ve looked different had the season concluded normally, but even with the abrupt stoppage, almost 70 games resulting in these stats would leave only a little room for improvement, if any.
So What Might This Mean for the Devils?
It’s obviously too early to judge a new coaching hire before any results are seen, but I think the trend of Recchi’s success in Pittsburgh might be a bit of a cause for alarm. While the most recent season didn’t end as anyone predicted, it did give a large enough sample size to gauge Recchi’s success or lack thereof. I wouldn’t say the Penguins were unsuccessful this past season, but I think it would be classed at the least as a disappointment, both in terms of statistics and results.
At the same time, it’s important to note that the Penguins GF/G didn’t decrease all that much over the three seasons. I think it’s fair to say some of the teams around them improved, which led to their slight ranking decrease the past two seasons. Consistent numbers here means consistent scoring, and we know the Devils haven’t had that; in this sense, Recchi should be an improvement over what the Devils have had. With an offensive-minded head coach as well, Recchi should hopefully be able to boost the Devils goals per game.
The Pittsburgh power play took a huge dip this past season (24.6% down to 19.9%) and with the Devils’ power play already being allergic to scoring, this is where the concern should lie. Recchi isn’t going to have a Crosby or Malkin in New Jersey (Nico Hischier and Jack Hughes aren’t close to that level of success yet), let alone both. Maybe with individual player offseason improvements, plus general team improvements (trade, free agency, draft) Recchi will have a group that he can extract some power play success from. If he does not, we still might see some offensive improvements between he and Ruff. The question here becomes at what cost to the defense, but alas that is for another article/time.
What are your initial thoughts on the impact that Mark Recchi could have on the New Jersey Devils’ offense; do you believe the Devils will improve under him? Does the Penguins’ overall offensive rank from last season concern you? What about the power play success? Is he the right assistant coach for the young crop of talent New Jersey currently is bringing up? Leave any and all comments below and thanks as always for reading!