Who Is Really to Blame for Zac Rinaldo?

When it comes to Zac Rinaldo’s actions against Pittsburgh on Tuesday, what did you expect? Were you anticipating his first career hat trick? Although both of those questions are rhetorical, they shed light on a theme that appears to be getting overlooked. While the 24-year-old bruiser is taking his lumps throughout the media, has anyone stopped to ask who’s really to blame for Zac Rinaldo?

 Gooning It Up

Both the Flyers and Penguins entered Tuesday’s tilt in Philadelphia a bit shorthanded. On the offensive side, the Pens were without Patric Hornqvist, Blake Comeau, Pascal Dupuis, and Marcel Goc; while the Flyers were missing second line center Scott Laughton. But instead of filling in the holes with talent, it’s what the two teams did that set the stage for Tuesday’s events.

Pittsburgh made an intriguing roster move on Wednesday morning, prior to its Rivalry Night matchup against Philadelphia — Bobby Farnham, the penalty minutes leader with AHL Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, has been recalled and appears ready to suit up this evening. — Mike Halford, Pro Hockey Talk

Along with Zach Sill, that’s quite an interesting personnel decision. Especially with Farnham’s 117 penalty minutes in 27 games this season with the Scranton-Wilkes Barre Penguins. Then again, he does have four points to go with all of that time in the sin bin.

The Flyers, on the other hand, opted to dress Zac Rinaldo in Laughton’s absence. And although Rinaldo’s 36 games in the NHL this season alone doesn’t make his spot in the lineup as much of a surprise, it doesn’t change the fact that there were clearly better options.

Truth be told, both teams had other viable alternatives. Philly could have plucked a better all-around hockey player to step in for Laughton in Jason Akeson, Blair Jones, or even Ryan White. But while this type of questionable management has been an ongoing saga in Philadelphia, the Pens’ countermove was a calculated one.

They’re obviously not bringing Farnham in for his scoring ability, though, so if he does in fact get inserted into the lineup, his role will be pretty well defined. He knows it well, too.

Farnham has three fighting majors in his 10 games with the big club this season and seven more in the AHL according to hockeyfights.com. He has already racked up 117 penalty minutes in 27 games with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in the AHL this year as well. — Chris Peters, CBS Sports

Instead of calling upon Bryan Rust, who’s 14 NHL games this season exceeded Farnham’s by four, the Penguins tapped their AHL fighting extraordinaire. And even though the 26-year-old rookie was used sparingly – 5:11 of time on ice – he was able to add a pair of hits to the box score, complimented with a five minute fighting major.


Note: Bryan Rust was unavailable for a call-up due to injury.

That doesn’t change the fact that Pittsburgh had 10 other forwards to pick from Scranton’s Wednesday lineup with more points than Farnham’s.


It looks like the Penguins knew exactly what to expect in their second meeting with the Flyers this season, and were willing to take part by measuring up the matchup.

This in no way, excuses Rinaldo’s dirty hit on Pittsburgh defenseman Kris Letang. Rinaldo’s boarding penalty on the Penguins’ top blue liner was not only a black eye on the organization, it placed his team in a precarious situation. After receiving a deserving game misconduct, Rinaldo hit the showers, leaving his teammates to kill off a five minute power play.

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The fourth-year Flyer didn’t help his cause after the game by taking credit for the aftermath of his dangerous actions.

“Yeah, I changed the whole game,” said Rinaldo. “Who knows what the game would have been like if I didn’t do what I did.”

Whether Rinaldo was joking or not, that type of response lacks intelligence in every fathomable way. Given his history, which includes two previous suspensions, perhaps a little remorse would seem a tad more advantageous, even if it has to be manufactured.

The harsh truth is that Rinaldo shouldn’t have been in the lineup to begin with. In 201 NHL games, the 5-11, 169-pound forward boasts a whopping 20 points. Two of those 20 points have come in 36 games this season. But when it comes to leaving his team shorthanded, he hasn’t disappointed.

With 17 penalty minutes credited to his name on Tuesday, Rinaldo now has 545 PIM in 201 games. That’s an egregious disparity in scoring. It’s one that’s unexplainable when it comes to justifying his insertion into the lineup, not to mention his recent two-year, $1.5 million contract extension back in September.

At the time of his ejection in the first period, Rinaldo had already logged 3:53 of ice time. His opening period deployment had him on pace to see double digits in minutes for the fourth time in his last six games. And since he’s given no indication that he’s transformed his game, who’s really to blame for Zac Rinaldo?

Game of Emotion

The rivalry between the Flyers and Penguins is unquestionably hockey’s best. It’s really not debatable. The pure hatred these two franchises share for each other simply cannot be fabricated. It’s what generates the attention they’ve garnered dating back to 1967.

“It’s hard to play this way for 80 games,” said Flyers forward Jakub Voracek, who’s 17 penalty minutes on Tuesday matched Rinaldo’s. “It was a very emotional game, a battle for 64 minutes. Obviously, if that’s the way we gotta win games, we gotta play like that every day.

“I’m sure it’s emotional for the Penguins, as well. They don’t fight or hit as much. Sometimes you have to find different ways to win games. I don’t know what it’s against the Penguins every time, but we won the game which is good.”

As we’ve seen, hockey and “hate” go together like gasoline and a box of matches. The Flyers and Penguins combined for 93 penalty minutes on Tuesday thanks to the chippy style that resulted in four fights, as well as several illegal hits.

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“There was a lot of emotion out there. . . . It’s a game like that we needed,” said Flyers captain Claude Giroux, who potted the overtime game-winner. “We got a little dirty, played together, and really fought for each other.”

Come again? Did the face of the Flyers franchise just admit to playing dirty?

“We were actually talking maybe we need to do something like that,” said defenseman Luke Schenn, who came up an assist shy of a Gordie Howe hat trick. “That kind of helped us last year turn things around when Ray Emery started something against Washington.”

There’s a reason the term “agitator” is prominent in hockey. And whether you’re for eradicating fighting in the NHL all together or not, situational fisticuffs have, and do, have an effect on momentum.

“It’s pretty cool to see that, one of the leading scorers in the league,” said Wayne Simmonds of Jakub Voracek’s duel with Rob Scuderi. “He gets pretty angry. He’s throwing uppercuts from hell. It was pretty impressive.”

Those interested in statistics and analytics alone scoff at the thought of a big hit, or a fight lifting the morale of the team on the winning end of such actions. And while they do so with validity on most occasions, it cannot be argued that emotion is a big part of this rough sport.

The Flyers were outshot 13-0 in the first 11:55 Tuesday night. They registered just three shots the entire first period. Somehow, they caught up to and finally surpassed the Penguins in shots midway through the third period. Another game, another slow start. — Sarah Baicker, CSN Philly

Sure, you could point out Luke Schenn’s goal on Philly’s second shot of the night as the microcosm of the current rivalry. But as the game wore on, and the penalty box attendant began to wear out the hinges on the door, the Flyers not only hung in with one of the Eastern Conference’s best teams, they ended up outshooting them.

There is plenty of evidence, however, to lobby for tightening up the rules, if not scrapping the fight all together. With a heightened knowledge on the effects of concussions, fighting isn’t exactly a precautionary activity that advances protection to players who are afforded that respect in other areas of the game, such as but not limited to, boarding.

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It’s a shame the actions of Zac Rinaldo took away from the storyline of Philadelphia’s sixth straight victory over Pittsburgh. It’s also unfortunate that it’ll take the adverse injury of Kris Letang to get Rinaldo out of the lineup.

Good luck finding anyone defending Rinaldo right about now. Especially in Philadelphia. But if there’s anyone who deserves to stand on a soap box, it certainly isn’t the Pittsburgh Penguins.

35 thoughts on “Who Is Really to Blame for Zac Rinaldo?”

  1. Rinaldo has been a complete and utter embarrassment everywhere he has attempted to play…his incredible lack of talent is appalling..idiots like him and Scott are an absolute disgrace to real players

  2. the game of hockey is a fast and full of hits if you don’t want the players from your team to get hit. Then don’t hit the other players. Letang got what he deserved he has been hitting other players left and right but it was ok for him to do since pens are the darlings of the NHL when Orpik went around hitting players and hurting them not one of you dipsticks in the media said anything but let a player from Philadelphia do something alike and they want to hang him. Middle school reporters!!!!
    To cantstandstupid you are not a Flyers fan, you are a figure skate fan!!!!
    what happened when the players from the bruins hit another player in the groins with the stick? nothing
    what happened when another player from the pens decided to use the stick with both hands and hit another player in back of the leg?

    • There’s no problem with players checking each other, hockey is a contact sport. it’s also part of the game.

      I do have a problem with players like Rinaldo that have no regard for thier opponents. You can hit opposition players legally all day long. That’s hockey.

      Second, driving someone head first into the boards with his numbers facing you isn’t legal. It’s not a good response to someone that is skating up and own the ice checking people legally.

  3. The NHL is nothing but a fluff sport anymore.

    Where is the outrage when guys like Cooke and Neal were running around for the Penguins throwing elbows and knees into players.

    What Rinaldo did to Letang was nothing compared to Matt Cooke kneeing a guy and possibly ending their career. The hit that Rinaldo threw used to happen in the NHL for YEARS.

    Please stop the whining.

    If you think fighting doesn’t belong in the NHL go watch baseball.

    EVERY TIME a fight happens in ANY arena the fans go nuts. It’s in our human DNA to love it.

  4. Let me first start off by saying I’m a Flyers season ticket holder and I hate seeing Rinaldo on the ice for any game. His only talent is to cause bad penalties against him, which puts the team in a bad spot. When you clowns say the Flyers intentionally put him in the lineup to “goon it up” I have to laugh since I’m aware of all the other games that he was in the lineup where his “goon” skills weren’t needed. He was in the lineup against the Panthers. Are they a hard checking team? He was in the lineup against the Redwings. I don’t see Datsyuk laying anyone out with a check and when’s the last time a Redwings player had a fighting major? I just checked and the Redwings have only had 3 fighting majors all year. He played against Buffalo. Who’s the tough guy that Rinaldo has to neutralize on that team? The Flyers have a terrible roster and instead of having a young player come up from the Phantoms, they put in who is available and in this case it was Rinaldo. Chief clearly hates Akeson, so I doubt he will ever be on the ice for the Flyers this year unless 10 more players get injured or Chief gets fired. Still calling the current Flyers team the Broad Street Bullies is like trying to call the line of Giroux – Voraceck – Schenn, the Legion of Doom, it just doesn’t work. The Broad Street Bullies was the team in the 70s, not the team of 2014. So the Flyers finally play a game where they want to impose a physical nature to the game. Last time I checked, they are playing hockey and are not participating in an ice dancing competition. Plus the Penguins clearly lose their minds when a physical type of game is played, so why not? The Bluejackets played a similar style when they played the Pens in the playoffs last year, but I didn’t read any writers trying to call them goons. Most articles I read about that series just pointed out the Pens get caught up with hitting and basically forget that they should focus on scoring instead, so the Bluejackets did a good job at getting the Pens to alter their playing style to one they aren’t effective at playing. The hit on Letang was clearly a bonehead move and I hope Chief realizes Rinaldo is a detriment when in the lineup. If Chief feels that Rinaldo has to be in the lineup to give the team some energy, then he really has no clue on how to coach and should not be able to waste more time being behind the bench. The Flyers will never make it back to the Finals with Chief behind the bench.

  5. I think it’s funny to sit here and read all these comments bashing Zac he goes out there and plays the game the way he is paid to do. The NHL has become such a bunch of Pu**ys anymore that I feel like im watching a game of ping pong. Games like this are what brings back good old hockey. Im not saying im for injuring someone but the physical hockey is great. The last time I looked there dirtier players in the league then Rinaldo, such as a ex penguin named Matt Cook, half the bruins players and many more. I think we need more rough stuff. So everyone can stop complaining and let hockey be hockey.

  6. So the penguins have more penalty minutes both major and minor than philly but people want to make philly out to be the goons? I get the rinaldo hit was bad, he doesnt deserve to play in the NHL. But the hit wasnt that bad. There wasnt intent to injure and if it was letang on rinaldo it probably would have only been 2 minutes. It was a hit to the shoulder. It wasnt delivered to the head or neck area. The result of the angle he hit him on, caused his head to hit the boards. It was a late hit and he left his feet but thats what rinaldo does. Hes so small he tries too hard to make a big hit and the result is this. Hes a crappy hockey player but not an evil player.

  7. This is going to be good. Please please please. Tell me who else the Pens could have brought up from the AHL. Half of their current team is AHL players. I don’t think they really had an option. But they Flyers with one injury. Definitely understandable. Article is a joke.

  8. This is a terrible article, blaming another team for calling up their tough guys, for going in to play a team known as broadstreet bullies, like its somehow their fault is the stupidist thing ive ever heard. The reason the pens and every OTHER team does that against the flyers is because of their mentality as dirty meathead assholes. And if you wanna say they hung with the pens and then outshot and beat them thats fine toot your horn all you want , but remember the pens are missing 3 top six skaters and letang who they cheap shotted him out of the game, not too mention ollie matta and a few other key players. And sure the flyers have had the pens number over the years head to head ,the numbers that matter is cups and the pens win that battle

  9. Those who talk about “old time hockey” are either forgetful or too young to know what they are talking about. The “glory days” they refer to are the 1970s. After Jean Belleveue passed, I watched some re-runs of the Habs Stanley Cup victories from the 1950’s. What was noticeably missing were the monster hits we see today. Before the players were allowed to wear the body armor they wear now, they could not risk hitting an opponent that hard. I think the NHL should follow Teemu Selanne’s advice, and cut back on the upper body armor. And FTR, I’ve been watching hockey since the 1960s.

  10. Looks like there are people in Philly willing to back Rinaldo as opposed to what the author said. There is always a goon first mentality and Berube does not lessen that in Philly. It might help when playing a team like Pittsburgh, but it does not seem to be working out against the rest of the league. Philly can brag about beating the Pens while they sit home during the playoffs again this year. Go Flyers!

    It also is troublesome that one of the people making a decision on this matter is still on the Flyer’s payroll while also being paid by the NHL for player safety, unless Pronger has to abstain in the case of Philly reviews.

  11. It is time for the teams to be penalized for allowing players like Rinaldo to continually come out and purposefully injure players. You ask “who is really to blame for Zac Rinaldo?” It is definitely the Flyers organization. And for all those “old-school” hockey lovers, if the NHL does not get fighting under control, the issues of concussions will become as bad as the NFL. I do find offense to your insinuation that the Pens should be responsible for Rinaldo’s actions for dressing Fahrnam! This is both ridiculous and without merit.

  12. some of the comments here are worse than what rinaldo is all about. if going out and intentionally injuring an opponent for the sake of ‘shaking things up’ then there is something fundamentally wrong with the flyers organization. from their chairman/owner down to the stickboys the mentality is injure every player until there are none left and we’ll be the only ones left standing. it doesn’t work like that anymore. when they have 6 or 7 players serving suspensions at the same time maybe it will sink in that there is a better way. but it won’t.

  13. This sport, sad to say, has been neutered beyond boredom. I long for the days of bench clearing brawls. When hockey players policed themselves. It’s truly a shame that those who think that fighting, et.al. is keeping this sport at a lower level of other MAJOR sports. What a misconception. Hockey has grown in popularity throughout the US from 40 years ago! Just look at the number of American and European players in the NHL today! It is the powers that be listening to the Olympic type no-touch fans that have kept this sport down. FOOLS!

  14. Are you serious?! This sport has been neutered beyond belief! Are you going to tell me that this game was a snoozer? Of course not! This game was old time hockey! A real hockey fan loves this type of game. I say “take a hike” to all you fans of the tutu type hockey. Get the “H” out of this sport and focus on something much more tame for your standards. Perhaps golf. “F” off!

  15. Where to start? Most of the blame lies at the feet of Gary Bettman and the owners. Next come the old-school dinosaur g.m.’s and coaches who are slow to change the culture of hockey. The players themselves must shoulder some responsibility as they continuously endanger their union brothers’ careers with dangerous hits and senseless fighting. Throw in the referees, who have either forgotten how or refuse to “police/control” the games in order to look like the “good guys” on the ice, in an effort to be assigned more playoff games. Let’s not forget the junior hockey system, which posts a game score on Twitter accompanied by a picture of a fight from the game. I could go on and on, from the sports shows, YouTube, coaches and parents of minor hockey players……….

  16. Rinaldo is in the game for what he is. An agitator and a energy guy. He’s been seeing regular 4th line minutes for the last few years. His job is get to into the head of the opposing teams and he does it very well. Sometimes he goes a little too far but its good to have him on the team.

  17. Actually, the real harsh truth is that you wrote an article on a subject that you apparently do not know much about. To my knowledge, and please correct me if I’m wrong, Pittsburgh initiated this when they made the decision to dress Farnham. The Flyers have been lacking energy the past few games and whether Pittsburgh dressed Farnham or not I think it was a good decision to dress Rinaldo. He brings a lot of energy every single shift and that is infectious to teammates. His presence on the ice is always on the minds of the opposing team. The downside to his playing style is that he walks a fine line and often takes bad penalties. Unfortunately in this case he got himself a game misconduct and more than likely a multiple game suspension. Who is really to blame for Zac Rinaldo? Zac Rinaldo. Obviously the guy brings something positive to the table otherwise a coach like Berube wouldn’t have him on the roster. I am by no means defending Rinaldo for what he did last night but don’t write an article taking a dig at someone on a subject that you don’t have in depth knowledge about.

    • If you honestly think the Flyers would have scratched Rinaldo had Farnham not been playing you obviously know nothing about the Pens/Flyers rivalry. Rinaldo is not an “energy” guy. He’s a player who has already been suspended repeatedly for dirty hits. When he gets on the ice you know what you’re getting. A goon. Period. The reason why Berube dresses Rinaldo is because Berube was a noted goon in his playing days. I seriously question how much YOU actually know about hockey.

      • I do honestly think that they would have played Rinaldo regardless of Farnham being in the lineup because Rinaldo played in plenty of other games this season that weren’t against physical teams. An energy guy is someone who skates their ass off every shift, brings a physical element and energizes teammates. Has he crossed the line? Yes, a few times. I’m not defending him for that. I have been watching and playing hockey for 30 years now and know plenty about the Flyers/Pens rivalry. I think that its safe to say that I know enough about the rivalry to know that you’re a Penguins fan trolling articles about the Flyers.

  18. I think the hit was clean. If you watch the video he was originally coming in at his numbers and then curves to get in front of Letang and hit him in the shoulder. It was a clean hit other then the leaving the feet that, with the height difference and the fact that he was started to slow down(Notice the snow shower at Letangs feet before and during the hit) is what caused him to leave his feet.

    I say its a clean hit, and it looked worse that it was and Letang sold it to the refs.

    • Tough sell, Steven. Rinaldo had ample time to let up. And based on the fact that Letang left the game and did not return, saying Letang sold it to the officials doesn’t appear to be accurate.

      • He did let up evident by the snow shower at Letangs feet before and during the hit, which is why Rinaldo left his feet.

        Letang left the game due to worry of a concussion. They had him evaluated and I’m guessing since this is his latest recent test that was the baseline test. So its possible he wasn’t really hurt but was a precautionary measure to make sure he doesn’t get hurt due the amped up physicality in the game.

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