March 10, 2013; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Buffalo Sabres left wing John Scott (32) and Philadelphia Flyers center Zac Rinaldo (36) talk during the first period at the Wells Fargo Center. Scott received 10-minute misconduct penalty on the play. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

The Philadelphia Flyers Zac Rinaldo Problem

As I was browsing the internet this afternoon I happened upon an article by Anthony SanFilippo who writes about the Philadelphia Flyers for the NHL Network. The post was titled “Whistle-Blower”. It happened to be about Zac Rinaldo, who’s fans include those who love him and those who love to hate him.

Those people who are in Zac’s corner describe him as “gritty” and a player with a lot of “heart”. The detractors of Zac Rinaldo point out his tendency to take dumb penalties and lack of any tangible skill other than being an “energy” player.

I for one am in the detractors camp but then there are nights like in Boston when he makes a clean check on the Bruins Jarome Iginla then absolutely pummels him in the ensuing fight. The thing is, for every good thing Rinaldo does on the ice it seems he immediately makes me forget it by doing something stupid.

Now, Mr. SanFilippo claims that he didn’t write this article to “troll stat-heads”.

 

Could it be that Zac is actually contributing to this team? I have my doubts but I decided to dissect the article anyway so read on!

AS – Jarome Iginla will end up in the Hockey Hall of Fame once his playing days are done. That doesn’t impress Zac Rinaldo.

BC – I mean yeah, he shouldn’t be in awe of him during the game but you should be mildly enthused that you are playing with a future Hall-Of-Famer at some point.

So, when Rinaldo had [Jarome Igninla] in his sights during a shift in the game against Boston Sunday, he wanted to make sure he hit him clean and hard. So he did.

That’s something that Rinaldo seems to take pride in, and that is that he does usually hit clean. It’s fairly rare to say to yourself after seeing Rinaldo hit a guy, “Boy, that was a dirty hit.” He should be commended for that because I don’t understand how Penguins fans dealt with having Matt Cooke on their team for so long.

And he took out Iginla, Bruins teammate David Krejci and linesman Greg Devorski as well.

He sure did.

GIF via @cjzero

GIF via @cjzero

Iginla didn’t like it, got up, cross-checked Rinaldo and proceeded to come up on the wrong end of a quick fight against the scrappy Flyers forward.

Rinaldo can throw. No doubt about that.

It’s a trade off the Flyers are happy to take though, as the Bruins lose one of their top scoring players for five minutes.

Can’t disagree here. The Flyers lose Zac for 5 minutes who has 5 points compared to the Bruins Iginla who has 61 points.

It was just the latest in a series of successful plays by Rinaldo in getting opposing players off the ice.

This is the moment in the article in which I started looking at his stats and not coming to the same conclusion Anthony did.

Rinaldo, whose game has started to develop well beyond being a pest, has drawn 26 penalties this season, which is tied for 37thmost in the NHL.

Which is okay I guess? According to ExtraSkater he has a Pen+/- of -12. That places him 390th in the NHL in that category. So he’s taken 12 more penalties than he’s drawn. Not good.

Considering more than 850 players have played games in the NHL this season, that’s a decent figure, but not one that necessarily jumps off the page. Not when the leader is Corey Perry of Anaheim, who has drawn 43 penalties. Nor has Rinaldo drawn the most penalties on his own team. Claude Giroux sits atop that list with 35. Scott Hartnell (33), Wayne Simmonds (30) and Steve Downie (26) are also tied with or ahead of Rinaldo. Then why bring it up?

Why indeed!

Well, Rinaldo averages only 8:36 of ice time per game.

I don’t know where this figure comes from because on NHL.com he’s TOI/G is 7:36. That’s almost a minute less than he averaged last year when his TOI/G was 8:22. According to ExtraSkater his TOI/60 at even-strength will be the lowest of his 3 year career (6.9).

Which means that drawing 26 penalties in just 487 minutes of ice time this season is pretty frequent. How often? Well, it would be 3.2 penalties drawn per 60 minutes played. Where does that rank him in the NHL? How about fifth.

Okay, that’s fine and everything but you know where he places even higher than that? Penalties taken. He ranks second in the NHL among players who have played at least 57 games with 4.7 Pen/60.

Only seven of the 26 penalties drawn by Rinaldo (27 percent) have been as part of a fighting major. (Carcillo is 21 percent).

So he actually has only drawn 19 penalties that didn’t include a fighting major. Not really helping his case here Anthony.

“Zac’s becoming a real player,” said Flyers assistant coach Ian Laperriere, who has served a s a bit of a mentor for Rinaldo. “A couple years ago people didn’t see that in him. He believed though that he was more than just a guy who runs around out there and he’s become a real effective player for our team.”

In this case, I can’t really expect Ian Laperriere to say anything other than this. No coach would or should throw their player under the bus but this statement is just wrong. Sure, you don’t expect your 4th line forward to score a lot but he’s on pace this year for just 3 points. He had more points in the lockout shortened season last year with 5 and had 9 points in his rookie campaign. He hasn’t improved.

He’s getting more minutes. He’s not being rooted to the bench for the entire third period. He’s playing at a level that is making him a player that can be relied in more regularly.

Again, as I explained above, he hasn’t played more minutes this season and the only reason he’s been seeing more ice time recently is because Vincent Lecavalier has been put on his line after his demotion.

“When Chief gave him a bigger role than he had before – letting him kill penalties – that’s when the change happened,” Laperriere said. “He’s not killing the penalties now, but when you’re coach gives you more responsibility, as a player it’s very flattering. I remember that from when I played. And when there is more responsibility he wants to play better to thank his coach.

This statement is confusing. So Zac should be happy they tried him out on the penalty killing unit but then he got removed from that unit, I would assume, because Craig Berube thought he wasn’t good enough to stay on it? Yeah, he should be super thrilled that his coach doesn’t have faith in him to keep him on that line.

“The thing about Zac is he keeps wanting to get better and better and he’s doing that now. He’s still young and we have a lot of trust in him.”

I’m not rooting against the kid. I know it doesn’t seem like it but I want to see him improve. I will give him credit that he has really toned down his game since his rookie campaign. The problem is I just don’t see any improvement anywhere else in his game.

As always, please send all your hate mail to [email protected] and your angry tweets to @BcanneyBSB.

Stats provided by ExtraSkater / NHL.com.

 

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