Is Mark Recchi a First-Ballot Hall of Famer?

Mark Recchi will be an argumentative candidate when he comes up for Hockey Hall of Fame talks in a couple of years. Will the Hall of Fame Selection Committee be able to say confidently “Congratulations Mark Recchi, you are now a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame”? He’ll get his first crack at immortality in 2014.

Sneaky good

Recchi is the apotheosis of being “sneaky good”. He wasn’t pretty or necessarily flashy on the ice, but he scored everywhere he went. A consistent and opportunistic offensive threat throughout his career, the “Reckin Ball” was a very good player at his best, often the best player and leading scorer on his team.

Rex was also top-five in league scoring three times in his illustrious career, playing at an elite level for much of the first half of the 1990′s. And I would even dare to say that at one point in his career (92, 93 or 94 comes to mind), Recchi was a star in the show and probably the best right winger in the game along with Jaromir Jagr, Brett Hull, Cam Neely, Pavel Bure and Teemu Selanne.

The 3-in-3 Club

Winning three Stanley Cups with three different teams is a remarkable feat. Recchi is one of only ten players in modern day NHL history to accomplish this exploit.  And let’s be clear about something here, he played a central part in all of those Cup wins. I always felt that Recchi brought a lot of intangibles on the ice and that he could score in any situation when it counted the most.

With 147 career playoff points, Rex was a player that contenders for the big prize have sought out. The Carolina Hurricanes traded for him in 2006 and they won the Cup. He was by no means a star but was still a solid contributing member of the team.

The Boston Bruins also acquired him in 2009 when the team felt they had an excellent chance to go all the way. He was not just a leader and a veteran presence in the locker room, he was still an integral part of the Bruins’ offense when they did win the Cup a couple of years later in Vancouver.

Mark Recchi has been a leader on and off the ice for much of his career. (Icon SMI)

Sure-fire Hall of Famer?

Recchi had seasons in the early to mid 90’s with the Penguins and Flyers when someone could have argued that he was a top 10 player in the NHL. There are however some weaknesses in his enshrinement case. Can anyone that watched Recchi play really say with a straight face: “Here’s someone who’s a sure-fire Hall of Famer”? I don’t think so.

Identity crisis

There are very few, if any, Hall of Famers who have “bounced around” as much as Recchi did during his career. Paul Coffey comes to mind right away but he will forever be remembered as an Oiler. Recchi simply hasn’t left a legacy or a true identity with a specific team in the NHL. Is he a Flyer? A Penguin? A Hab?  

His best campaigns were in Philadelphia and he toured there twice. Recchi also had great seasons in Pittsburgh and won a Cup there with Lemieux and Jagr. In Montreal, he was a very solid performer for five years, but was not able to win a Cup.

There will be no number retirement ceremony in any of those cities and this will probably hurt his case as a first-ballot guy. I think if Recchi had played his entire career with one team, nobody would question his Hall of Fame worthiness.

The verdict

Was Recchi ever viewed as a no-brainer future Hall of Famer during his playing days?  No way. However, I still think Rex is a lock to be enshrined eventually because of everything he accomplished on the ice.

With 577 goals and 956 assists, Recchi ranks 12th all time with 1533 points. I don’t think we truly realize how extraordinary those stats are. If you are good enough to reach the 1500-points plateau in the NHL, then you have earned your place in the Hockey Hall of Fame.

A big part of the first-ballot debate really depends on who Recchi will be up against come voting time. If he has to face a strong opposition, like the Class of 2007 (Francis, MacInnis, Messier & Stevens), or the Class of 2009 (Hull, Leetch, Robitaille & Yzerman), then he might not make it in his first year of eligibility. I certainly would not vote for him over Dominik Hasek, Peter Forsberg and Mike Modano when the time comes in 2014.

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