How Does Mark Recchi Affect the CBJ Power-Play?

Mar 11, 2018; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; /pen assistant coach Mark Recchi (L) talks to center Sidney Crosby (87) on the bench against the Dallas Stars during the second period at PPG PAINTS Arena. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 11, 2018; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; /pen assistant coach Mark Recchi (L) talks to center Sidney Crosby (87) on the bench against the Dallas Stars during the second period at PPG PAINTS Arena. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /
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Mar 11, 2018; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; /pen assistant coach Mark Recchi (L) talks to center Sidney Crosby (87) on the bench against the Dallas Stars during the second period at PPG PAINTS Arena. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 11, 2018; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; /pen assistant coach Mark Recchi (L) talks to center Sidney Crosby (87) on the bench against the Dallas Stars during the second period at PPG PAINTS Arena. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /

After Mark Recchi was brought in this week as an assistant coach, to run the forward group and the power-play; a lot of fans of teams from his previous stops have been critical of the hiring. Are their concerns merited?

After a Hall-of-Fame NHL career, Recchi retired as a Stanley Cup champion in 2011. He joined the Dallas Stars in 2013 as a consultant; then the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2014, acting as a development coach for the next three years. In 2017, he was named director of player development for the Penguins; while also moving behind the bench as an assistant coach. He remained with the Penguins until 2020; when his contract was not renewed following the 2019-20 season. He was subsequently hired by the New Jersey Devils, where he spent two years as an assistant before being fired in May of 2022.

To debate his progress, we can form a baseline for his teams’ power-play performance based on his tenure there, as well as each team’s personnel. We’ll take each team’s performances from the year before and year after his time behind the bench, to give us a final rundown of how he affected each team’s man advantage units.

If we start with the 2016-17 Penguins, there’s a pretty high bar. That team finished with the third best power-play in the NHL, scoring at a 23.1% clip. This isn’t really surprising, when you look at their personnel, which included Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessell, Connor Sheary, Kris Letang, Jake Guentzel, Patric Hornqvist, and Justin Schultz. This team went on to win their second consecutive Stanley Cup that season, so Recchi was entering the next year with huge expecations.

In his first year as an assistant coach (2017-18), at least from a power-play perspective, things went really well. The Penguins returned every player listed in the previous paragraph, and led the NHL in power-play percentage, scoring at a 26.2% clip – nearly 1.5% ahead of second place Toronto that season.

Mar 10, 2018; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Pittsburgh Penguins center Jake Guentzel (59) and center Sidney Crosby (87) and right wing Josh Jooris (16) look on from the bench as assistant coach Mark Recchi and head coach Mike Sullivan look on against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Air Canada Centre. The Maple Leafs beat the Penguins 5-2. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 10, 2018; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Pittsburgh Penguins center Jake Guentzel (59) and center Sidney Crosby (87) and right wing Josh Jooris (16) look on from the bench as assistant coach Mark Recchi and head coach Mike Sullivan look on against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Air Canada Centre. The Maple Leafs beat the Penguins 5-2. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports /

The 2018-19 season wasn’t as strong for the Penguins. They had mostly the same names around, but there were a lot of injuries. They still finished 5th in the league with a power-play that scored at a 24.6% clip, which seems pretty good to me. The 2019-20 season was shortened to 69 games due to the COVID-19 pandemic; and again, the Pittsburgh lineup was decimated with injuries. Malkin played in 55 games. Crosby, 41, and Guentzel, just 39. Their power-play scored at a clip of 19.9% that season, but really, the talent wasn’t there for them to grow and kind of consistency. Recchi was not brought back for the next year, where the season was again shortened (to 56 games). A more healthy Penguins lineup surged back to expectations, scoring at a clip of 23.7% with the man advantage – 4th in the NHL.

In summary, in three years running the power-play unit in Pittsburgh; Recchi’s units finished 1st, 5th, and 16th. These years were book-ended by a unit that finished 3rd and 4th; so I would debate from a Penguins perspective, at least statistically; that his handling of their power-play was just fine. That outlying season looked like this most recent CBJ season in terms of injuries; except Pittsburgh had several of the best players in the world missing from their lineup.