Today, we talk with former Penguins forward Mark Recchi.
If you can imagine such a thing, there was a time when the Penguins were able to successfully draft and develop a scoring winger for a franchise center. A fourth-round pick in 1988, Mark Recchi developed into a 100-point threat just two years later during the 1990-91 season. Playing primarily on "The Option Line" with John Cullen and Kevin Stevens, Recchi was the Penguins' leading scorer that campaign with 113 points. That line was so successful, all three players were selected for the All-Star game that season.
At the trade deadline, Cullen was traded in a now famous trade and Recchi was placed on the wing of captain Mario Lemieux who came back from a back ailment mid season. Recchi, then 22, racked up 34 points that postseason, second only to Lemieux, and helped the franchise claim its first Stanley Cup title that spring.
Recchi was dealt at the trade deadline the following season. After spending parts of the next 15 seasons with Philadelphia and Montreal, Recchi returned to the Penguins for two separate stints in the mid-2000s. In 389 regular season games with the Penguins, "The Wrecking Ball" scored 385 points, 13th-most in franchise history.
The only member of the 1991 Stanley Cup champions who is active as a player in the NHL, Recchi, 42, is still chasing the Stanley Cup while still wearing black and gold. He is currently playing for the Bruins who are xxx the Lightning in the Eastern Conference Finals.
What was it like playing for head coach Bob Johnson?
"By January, he made us believers. All his philosophies and all his believing made us believers as well. We just carried on from there. The last stretch drive, we became a really good team. We were inconsistent then all of the sudden, we became a real good team at the end."
How important was it adding veterans like Bryan Trottier, Joe Mullen and Jiri Hrdina with Stanley Cup experience to the roster?
"They were huge. To have those guys, was unbelievable. They came in, they were terrific players for us and they were terrific leaders for us. I was very fortunate. I sat between them. It was the best thing that ever happened to a young guy like me. And (general manager Craig Patrick) basically just stole them. He got Joey for a second rounder and ‘Trots’ was a free agent. And Jiri Hrdina was big. He won a Cup too (with Calgary in 1989)."
The trade with Hartford which sent John Cullen, Jeff Parker and Zarley Zalapski to the Whalers in exchange for Ron Francis, Grant Jennings and Ulf Samuelson wasn't very popular at first was it?
"Because Johnny was so well liked. Such a great guy. We’re still best friends. We still talk two, three times a week right now. It was tough. But when you get an opportunity to get a guys like Ronnie Francis and Ulf Samuelsson, it was something you got to do. We never forgot Johnny but we got great players back. We got the shutdown defenseman we needed and we got a great two-way center with Ronnie."
Is the trade which brought Larry Murphy and Peter Taglianetti from the North Stars in exchange for Chris Dahlquist and Jim Johnson underrated?
"Very underrated. Larry Murphy was incredible. Such a great defenseman. You could never get the puck off him. It was something we really needed. He was a piece we needed. He’s a great guy in the locker room. He added an element we were just missing. We had (Paul Coffey) but a guy like ‘Murph’ who can make the first pass going forward. You have that many weapons up front, you want the puck going forward."
How important was winning the Patrick Division - the first division title in franchise history - with a 7-4 win in Detroit, March 27?
"It was a long process throughout the year. And we finally got there. It was such a good feeling. I still remember like it was yesterday in Detroit. It was such a good feeling to get that. We were able to take a breather and really get ready. We knew we had a tough (first-round) series. It ended up going seven."
What do you you remember about "The Save" by Frank Pietrangelo in Game 6 of the Patrick Division final?
"Unbelievable. Tom Barrasso gets hurt – and people forget Mario didn’t play that game either – and we were down 3-2 in the series. We got “The Save” from Frankie. We got a couple big goals from Ronnie and Kevin (Stevens). It was a huge win."
What was your reaction to Kevin Stevens predicting victory after Game 2 of the Wales Conference final against the Bruins despite trailing the series, 2-0?
"Yeah, they didn’t even play with us. They couldn’t play with us in the second game. It was awesome. It’s what he felt. He believed in the guys in the dressing room. He didn’t care. I think we all felt that way but he was brave enough to say that."
What was Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final like considering the Penguins controlled the Cup-clinching game very early on?
"The clock wouldn’t end. It was like ‘Is this ever going to end?’ Let’s go. Let’s get the party started. That was the biggest thing."
(Photos: Penguins Hockey Cards)