Zac Rinaldo is always going to get reputation calls made against him.
That's just a fact of life with him, as it is with every big hitter and frequent penalty taker in hockey. Rinaldo might be at the extreme end of that spectrum, but as we've mentioned a million times in the past, that's the risk you run when you employ a guy who's routinely the league leader -- regardless of the league -- in PIM.
That said, there are still going to be those calls against him that make you scratch your head, and this hit last night in the Adirondack Phantoms 3-2 loss to the St. John's IceCaps is a solid example. See the video above. Rinaldo was given a five minute major for elbowing and a game misconduct.
Here's what Zac had to say about the hit after the game via Diana Nearhos at the Glens Falls Post-Star:
"It's a joke, he didn't see the hit," Rinaldo said. "I did hit him shoulder-to-shoulder. I watched it as soon as I got off the ice. It's just, I guess they hear the impact and then they saw the blood and then they called it. I went back to watch it and realized I wasn't even close to what they said - not even elbow, nothing. Originally (they called) an elbow, and then they saw the blood and thought elbow to the head, blood, okay kick him out. It's a joke."
At first glance, it looks like it's a massive collision with the boards that made a nice loud sound but might only have brushed IceCaps defenseman Julian Melchiori. There was blood on his face, though, which always complicates things. Since the camera was positioned roughly 14 kilometers away from the point of impact, our best guess is that Rinaldo mostly missed Melchiori but brushed his visor or his face, cutting him. Tough to tell either definitively in any way, at least in my opinion.
Regardless, as Geoff noted in the Fly By this morning, Rinaldo is a living Rorschach Test. If you hate him, you're going to see the dirtiest hit in the world. If you love him, it's a bullshit reputation call. If you're in the middle on him, you're probably on the fence about the call. (I'm on the fence, for the record.)
Let's just assume for a second though that Rinaldo's completely right here -- that this was a complete reputation call that shouldn't have been made. It's a fair argument.
"Philadelphia told me about Zac Rinaldo," said NHL chief disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan. "He's a really big hitter. Hits hard. But they said to him that if you see 20 hits a game in your head, pick the best three. That's enough to be a physical, intimidating player in this League. When I hear coaching like that, that's when I'm thinking there's full buy-in there."
If you see 20 hits in a game in your head, Zac, you should pick the best three. Be physical, don't change your game, but be smart.
It's hard to argue that this hit last night would have been one of those best three. The puck was already gone, he was just finishing his check behind the net and recognizing his own reputation, a hit like that risked hurting his team for no reason. It was inconsequential to the play, really, and it eliminated the latter portion of a Phantoms power play.
I think the Flyers would argue that if they're trying to breed a smarter Zac Rinaldo, that's a hit he should avoid.
... not to say it wasn't a bullshit call.