In a whopping four seconds of ice time, Zac Rinaldo made his presence felt on Saturday afternoon. After attempting to fight Antoine Roussell in the opening two minutes of the game, Rinaldo was slapped with 27 penalty minutes and a game misconduct. With the announcement today that he will play again tonight, Philadelphia Flyers fans are beginning to doubt that Craig Berube really means anything when he preaches ‘accountability.’
Rinaldo was the Flyers 6th round pick (178th overall) in the 2008 NHL Draft. He is 23 years old and only in his third full NHL season. Throughout his hockey career, he has put up big penalty minutes. Through his final three OHL seasons Rinaldo received 647 penalty minutes in 179 games (3:37PIM/game). Over that same stretch, he had a total of 69 points (.39 points/game). The story was the same during the 2010-2011 season, his only full season with the Adirondack Phantoms. Rinaldo had 331 penalty minutes and just nine points in 60 games.
That’s what you get with Zac Rinaldo. He does not bring points or offensive outbursts, but he brings energy, there is no doubt about that. A Flyers fan cannot turn on a game without hearing Jim Jackson and Keith Jones salivate over Rinaldo’s hitting ability and fearless play. The question is, has his lack of discipline made him a liability at the NHL level?
Yes. To be clear, he brings great energy to the line-up and his fully capable, in my opinion, of becoming a quality fourth line player. Right now, however, he has not developed the discipline necessary to help the Flyers.
In his rookie season, 2011-2012, Rinaldo was incredibly raw. He had 232 penalty minutes in 66 games. He got his fair share of ‘reputation’ penalties, but his lack of discipline was about what one would expect from a 21 year old agitator getting his shot in the NHL. Last season, it looked like Rinaldo had turned a corner. Yes, he still took some penalties, 85 PIMs in 32 games, but he started to draw penalties as well. His ice time increased to 8:22/game over 7:28/game his rookie season. In four of his final seven games last season he even logged over 10 minutes a game.
This season, it looks as though Rinaldo has regressed to his old ways. He is taking dumb penalties and barely playing. His ice time is down to 7:01/game and most of that is with Adam Hall and Jay Rosehill. The Rinaldo penalty killing experiment has not gone too terribly, but he has not been sensational either. Couturier, Giroux, Read, Hall, and Raffl have all looked much better than him on the PK. His lack of discipline came to a head Saturday afternoon when he mindlessly went after Antoine Roussell. It does not matter what Roussell said or did, what Rinaldo did was dumb and shows his lack of maturity.
I still think that Rinaldo can be a good fourth line player. He has noticeable speed, is a good hitter, and could develop into a decent penalty killer. Right now, he has to find the discipline he showed glimpses of last year. If he does not, the Flyers brass may want to think long and hard about what Rinaldo actually brings to this team.