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Recchi's bitterness unwarranted

| Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2007

After a lengthy silence, Atlanta Thrashers winger Mark Recchi finally spoke up about his ugly final days with the Penguins.

He had a message for them, too.

"They'll see," Recchi told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "I didn't get 68 points for no reason last year."

He's right. The reason was Sidney Crosby.

Recchi continued: "In the first seven or eight games (this season), I had a point a game until the coach decided to move me down two or three lines for whatever reason. I still haven't figured it out."

Here's a clue, Mark ...


It's hard when an athlete grows old. He's often the last to see that his skills have diminished and has trouble admitting it even then.

That is understood. But for Recchi and his agent, Rick Curran, to rip Penguins coach Michel Therrien on the way out of town -- even as the club was trying to find him a new employer -- was unconscionable.

Recchi, who turns 40 in February, had the nerve to lace into Therrien behind closed doors and argue he hadn't been given a fair chance. He angrily took the same gripe to general manager Ray Shero.

Fact is, those two had given Recchi rope enough to stretch all the way from Mellon Arena to his hometown of Kamloops, British Columbia. That's 2,444.7 miles worth, according to MapQuest -- a service Recchi might have enlisted in hopes of finding the net.

One of his two no-impact goals this season bounced off his body.

Therrien invited criticism by sticking with Recchi as long as he did. This is the thanks he gets?

Penguins management finally gathered enough gumption to scratch Recchi on Nov. 15 against the Islanders. The Penguins won. Recchi then played beside Evgeni Malkin in a loss to the Rangers before disappearing from the lineup for good.

The Penguins proceeded to rip off seven wins in eight games.

Colby Armstrong and Tyler Kennedy re-entered the lineup. Armstrong has more even-strength goals (two) in his past eight games than Recchi has in his past 52. Kennedy scored three such goals in an eight-game stretch.

Shero and Therrien helped to create the Recchi debacle. The seed for trouble was planted in the first exhibition game, when Recchi was back where he didn't belong -- on the top power play in a 5-on-3. He opened the season on Malkin's line and played on Crosby's for the next eight games. Half those points he talked about were second assists.

Management obviously hadn't discussed a reduced role with Recchi before re-signing him. If he'd refused, the Penguins might have missed out on re-signing Gary Roberts. The two appeared to be a package deal. But many of us who supported keeping them argued it should only happen if Recchi's role was radically altered.

Upon being scratched, Recchi could have accepted a lesser role, the kind he says he is willing to accept in Atlanta. Who knows• Two weeks from now, an injury or two might have had him logging major minutes again.

Even if Recchi rekindles some of the old magic in Atlanta, it won't make his classless exit act any more palatable.

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