The Philadelphia Flyers have been synonymous with aggressiveness and grit since the 1972-1973 season. 40 years later, the Flyers still continuously field at least one bruiser on the ice, always ready to drop the gloves or delivering a powerful hit when needed. As of late, that bruiser has been 23-year-old Zac Rinaldo.
In the past, Flyers fighters have often endured short careers in the orange and black. Donald Brashear played with the Flyers for three seasons, Riley Cote played for four seasons, and Aaron Asham played for two seasons. At times, it appears as if these players are viewed as disposable and easily replaced. Rinaldo is proving otherwise.
At 5-foot-11 and 180 pounds, Rinaldo is far from the largest player on the ice. Drafted 178th overall in the 2008 NHL draft, he’s flipped between the Adirondack Phantoms and the Flyers since the 2010-2011 season. In his first season as a Flyer, Rinaldo’s overly-aggressive play style caught the attention of referees frequently. It was obvious that the young left winger simply needed experience.
Rinaldo gained that experience quickly, as shown during the 2012-2013 season. He’s shown the ability to play aggressively without taking senseless penalties. At times, it seems that Rinaldo’s reputation precedes him, as it appears that referees give him penalties just for being on the ice, but his time spent in the box for senseless penalties has decreased.
As his penalty time decreases, his maturity has increased. A fight between B.J. Crombeen and Rinaldo drew the ire of Tampa Bay Lightning fans on February 5, 2013, as many claimed Rinaldo continued to punch Crombeen as he lay on the ice defenseless.
Recordings of the incident show that not only did Rinaldo stop punching Crombeen when he was defenseless, he skated over to the referees multiple times after the play to politely implore that he did not punch him when he was down.
Last season, when the Flyers seemed hopeless, Rinaldo continued to play with passion and intensity. Despite being a fighter, Rinaldo received the first stitches of his NHL career not from a fist, but a skate on January 20, 2013, a full two years after his career began. He’s displayed his ability to energize the team and the fans through a massive hit or much-needed fight.
Rinaldo is not the best scorer on the team, nor the fastest skater. He provides an immeasurable ability to get under the skin of opponents, drawing them to commit senseless penalties. He’s also one of the few players that can change the flow of a game in a single shift. Rinaldo has clearly shown that he’s a Broad Street Bully through and through, and is deserving of an extended position on the Flyers’ roster.