Once-Reckless Rinaldo Showing Worth
Zac Rinaldo has heard it all before.
Some Flyers fans think he’s a goon, a menace, and a waste of roster space. If this were last year, it would be easy to understand those opinions.
But this is a new year and a new Rinaldo.
The concerns about Rinaldo are not unfounded. Back in the OHL, as a member of the Barrie Colts, he was suspended for a physical interaction with an official. To make matters worse, the incident took place in his first game back from a 12-game suspension for an illegal hit.
Even last season with the Adirondack Phantoms, Rinaldo racked up more penalty minutes than ice time. He was suspended four times – including a suspension on April 8th, 2011, that effectively ended his season.
The slightly-longer-than-usual offseason gave Rinaldo time to reflect on his hockey career. His reputation was overshadowing his actual skill, which made it crucial for him to make a strong impression when the Flyers invited him to training camp.
Head coach Peter Laviolette was aware of his potential.
“Zac can be a real effective player for the Flyers,” he told reporters. “I think he proved last year that he’s capable of being physical, skating, agitating a little bit and bringing that presence on the ice.”
Rinaldo’s determination and hard work paid off as he was in the lineup on opening night, bringing high-energy to every shift that he played. He was sent down to the Phantoms for four games when the Flyers needed to clear roster space.
During his short stint with the Phantoms, Rinaldo scored a goal and an assist, further hinting at his potential.
When he returned to the team on October 27th, broadcasters Jim Jackson and Bill Clement commented on the spark that Rinaldo brought to the team, something that had been lacking while he had been in the AHL.
On November 3rd, Rinaldo scored his first career NHL goal in a game against the New Jersey Devils. He almost had two goals that night, as his speed lead to a breakaway chance that he wasn’t able to capitalize on.
Rinaldo pointed out that he is more than a one-dimensional player.
“I don’t just like hitting,” he said to reporters. “I also like putting the puck into the net sometimes.”
Max Talbot was quick to acknowledge Rinaldo’s abilities.
“For sure, he had a beautiful goal,” Talbot said to reporters. “He is definitely an energy player and he can make things happen when he’s asked upon.”
He is still an instigator who racks up penalty minutes in almost every game he plays, but the energy that he brings sparks the rest of the team to step up their play.
In the 10 games that Rinaldo has played with the Flyers, the team has gone 7-3.
While Rinaldo wants to display his skill, he realizes that it is necessary to balance his play.
“Some games I [have to be physical], some games I don’t,” he said to reporters. “It depends on the game… some games, we need that energy. So I just take it game by game.”