They believe they’ve found an answer to prevent that from happening again as the Pirates’ NHL parent club, the Phoenix Coyotes, have enlisted the services of enforcer Joel Rechlicz by signing him to a one-year, two-way contract.
At 6-4, 220-pounds, Rechlicz comes with a reputation of being a top-flight heavyweight in the American Hockey League. Last season, the 25-year-old was ranked second in the AHL with 267 penalty minutes and finished with 17 fighting majors while playing for the Hershey Bears.
In his two seasons with Hershey, he’s piled up nearly 400 penalty minutes and 40 fighting majors.
“He’s known as a physical player and we know what he’s all about,” said Coyotes Asst. GM Brad Treliving. “There were more than a few nights last season that I thought we didn’t have enough (toughness) in the lineup.”
“(Joel) is here to create a safe work environment for our younger players, but more than that he’s an excellent teammate. He gives us an element that we still need in today’s game.”
He will certainly fill an important role in the Pirates lineup. More often than not last season, the skilled players for Portland were forced to fight their own battles. Andy Miele, who is all of 5-8, 175-pounds, was ranked fifth on the Pirates in fighting majors.
That’s something that Pirates’ coach Ray Edwards would not like see repeated again this season.
“We need our more skilled guys to feel comfortable,” he said. “A guy like Andy Miele had one of two more fights that we would have liked last season. We can’t have that.”Edwards points to the AHL’s Atlantic Division as being one of the more physical divisions in the league, making Rechlicz a key component to the team in Portland.
Five of the top-10 players in AHL fighting majors last season played in the Atlantic Division led by the Manchester Monarchs, who held down the top two spots with forwards Richard Clune and Justin Johnson recording 23 majors apiece.
“It’s a role that we really needed,” said Edwards. “We really didn’t fill that role with any certainty last season and with a division like the one that we play in, it’s really just become a necessity to have.”
It’s not only the physical aspect of Rechlicz’s game that attracted Treliving as well as the rest of the Coyotes staff to his game, but his presences in the locker room.
Treliving was encouraged by what he was hearing from other executives around the NHL and AHL about Rechlicz and his positive approach to the game and being a good teammate.
“I’ve had a chance to talk with Joel and he’s full of energy and a very respectful young man,” said Treliving. “Everybody you talk to about Joel just loves his work ethic and personality on-and-off the ice.”
It’s the intangible benefits that can’t be measure or tallied on a scoresheet, but often times it might be what puts a team over the top during a deep playoff run.
“You can’t be that guy that’s not in the lineup and sit up in the stands and sit there and pout,” Rechlicz told the Patriot-News. “You can never be that guy. You’ve got to be the guy where you come into the room, you’re joking with the guys and you’re always positive.
“The minute you turn negative, it just all goes downhill. Then your teammates see that and that reflects off everybody else. You’ve got to be that positive guy.”
Dziurzynski signs AHL contract:
The Pirates added more toughness by signing Darian Dziurzynski to an AHL contract. The 6-0, 200-pound forward recently completed his overage season with the Brandon Wheat Kings of the Western Hockey League. In 61 games, he posted 27 goals, 16 assists for 43 points and 106 penalty minutes.
Dziurzynski, a fifth round selection (#141 overall) by the Phoenix Coyotes in the 2011 Entry Draft, attended Pirates training camp last season before the Coyotes opted to send him back to juniors for one more season.
Coyotes sign Johnson:
Phoenix already signed one Johnson when they added goaltender Chad Johnson on the opening day of free agency, but that wasn’t enough as they signed forward Nick Johnson to a one-year, two-way contract.
Johnson spent the majority of last season in the NHL with the Minnesota Wild where he scored 26 points (8g, 18a) in 77 games. Johnson has appeared in 169 AHL games with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (50g, 64a) and could be a depth player, spending time in both Portland and Phoenix.
Coyotes’ prospect Brett MacLean continues to recover from a cardiac emergency that he suffered back on July 2 in Owen Sound, Ontario. MacLean, 23, collapsed while playing a pickup game at a local rec center in Owen Sound. He needed to be resuscitated by CPR and an AED before later being airlifted to University Hospital in London, Ontario. He was released from the hospital last week and is now home recovering as doctors continue to perform diagnostic test to find the cause for his collapse.
No word yet on the status of his playing career.
Minard takes job with Jr. Pirates:
Current Pirates assistant coach Mike Minard is joining the Portland Jr. Pirates organization as being named goalie coach on Thursday.
Minard joined Ray Edwards’ staff last summer as an assistant coach and was responsible for working with the goaltenders in Portland. He’ll be busy this season with three rookie goalies – Mark Visentin, Mike Lee and Louis Domingue – in the Coyotes system and now his new duties, which will be to work with the goaltenders with the Jr. Pirates’ EJHL, EmJHL and youth programs.