Zac Rinaldo Punishment Gives League a Chance at Redemption


Among all the controversies of last night’s electric match-up between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers (the absurd game-winning OT goal, the Flyers’ endless string of dirty slashes and head shots, etc.) perhaps the most potent event was Zac Rinaldo‘s blatantly disrespectful hit on Penguins defenseman Kris Letang.

During the first period of the contest, Letang made a play along the boards to chip the puck up and out of the zone. As he stood with has back facing away from the boards, Flyers pugilist Rinaldo jumped into Letang’s back and head, clearly leaving his feet and engaging in the check a full few seconds after Letang had gotten rid of the puck.

Letang stayed down on the ice in visible pain before missing the rest of the game. Rinaldo was served a game misconduct and was thrown out as well.

Now served an in-person hearing that will guarantee Rinaldo a suspension, the young forward finds himself in a position he’s all too familiar with.

He was handed a four-game suspension last season after doling out an illegal check to the head of Buffalo’s Chad Ruhwedel.

Prior to that, he was given a two-game ban for charging Detroit’s Jonathan Ericsson.

That same season he was also fined for two more incidents, including a similar late-hit situation on New Jersey’s Jacob Josefson.

To sum up, the hefty suspension that is on its way from the league will not be a new experience for Rinaldo, outside of the fact that it may his longest ban yet.

While the coming result will not be too much of a mystery – the hit was egregious and Rinaldo will certainly receive a sizable suspension – the situation does present the league with an opportunity to redeem themselves after reaching a somewhat questionable decision regarding one of the NHL’s other biggest pests – Daniel Carcillo.

After injuring Jets forward Mathieu Perreault with a ridiculous and unnecessary cross-check to the arm after play was whistled down, Carcillo was dealt a mere 6-game ban by the league, despite the suspension being his 9th ban-worthy offense, not including the fines he’s received as well.

Many have expressed the opinion that the league made a mistake in failing to ban Carcillo for a sum in the double-digits, especially when it is clear he has no intention of changing his style of play.

Rinaldo represents just another player in the long line of NHL pests who cross the line far too often. The difference with Rinaldo is that being an on-ice annoyance is all he does. He might think he’s Brad Marchand, but he’s bringing far less to the table (he’s certainly not wowing anyone with his offensive play as his best season saw him put up a big-time 9 points in 66 games).

His defensive play isn’t anything to write home about either.

Thus, it is up to the league to curb Rinaldo’s reckless style while he’s still somewhat young (24 years old) before he goes on to put together a similar string of extended suspensions while his opponents are forced to miss time with injury.

Rinaldo clearly has little remorse for his actions as he reportedly joked to reporters about his dirty hit on Letang.

“I changed the whole game, man” Rinaldo reportedly said with a smirk. “Who knows what the game would have been like if I didn’t do what I did?”

Rinaldo also highlighted the fact that he took one of the Pens’ star players out of the game, further suggesting it was an intentional act to give the Flyers an advantage.

While it’s certainly no surprise that the Flyers must resort to bush-league tactics like illegal headshots considering they currently sit well outside of a playoff spot, the league has a responsibility to punish guys like Rinaldo accordingly to send a message about the way the game should be played.

It’s time for this kid to grow up and start making useful contributions to this league, and that simply isn’t going to happen unless he’s punished accordingly for his dangerous style.