Philadelphia Flyers season preview: Zac Rinaldo's newfound sanity

USA TODAY Sports

Noted for being crazy and a bit over the edge in his first season and change in the NHL, Zac Rinaldo was markedly more collected last season. Can that continue? And what else does he bring?

Zac Rinaldo

Age: 23
Depth Chart: Fourth line right wing
Contract Status: $750,000 per year through 2015, RFA when it expires
2013 Frequent Linemates: Ruslan Fedotenko (48.7% of time), Max Talbot (47.5%)

2013 Stats

GP TOI/GP Goals Assists Points
32 8:23 3 2 5
Corsi On Corsi Rel Corsi Rel QoC OZ Start % PDO
-18.7 -17.3 -0.236 39.3 950

The bad from 2013

Rinaldo, as you likely know, is kind of insane. Or, a little more correctly put, undisciplined. Even if it's an improvement from his past (and we'll get to that in a second), 85 PIMs is a lot for a guy playing just over 8 minutes a game for 32 games. And his craziness is by far the most noteworthy thing about him -- he didn't really improve from his rookie year in the scoring department despite individually shooting 20%, and his possession numbers (even with the oddly low zone start number) are not pretty in any way, shape or form.

The good from 2013

It sure looks like Rinaldo, at some point last season, made a visible, concerted effort to try and be markedly less crazy. We talked about it in March the day after he goaded Daniel Alfredsson into a match penalty, but in the 23 games between February 12 and the end of his season, Rinaldo committed only three non-coincidental minor penalties, all while drawing well more than that. It could just be a small sample hiccup, but if you look at some of the quotes from him in that piece, it seems like it hit him somewhere along the line that he knows that he won't have a place in the NHL any more if he continued to be utterly insane all the time.

He deserves credit for making that improvement, and it's probably a big reason why the team gave him a two-year contract extension. Oh, and because he's a fan favorite who's good at hitting and fighting people. That's why, too.

What should we expect this season?

Who knows? Again, if you assume that he's scaled back on the minor penalties (i.e. the ones that actually hurt the team) and has done so while also maintaining his ability to draw penalties, then he could be an OK 12th forward alongside Max Talbot and Adam Hall.

But even if so, the point remains he's never really been one to score or tilt the ice in his favor or do anything but skate fast, draw penalties, and hit/fight people. That's a fine skillset and all, but if that's all you can really expect, it's a little underwhelming (other than the drawing penalties part). Maybe he develops a little bit of offensive touch that shows up a bit more frequently year, and if so, awesome. But it's not particularly likely.

Best case...

The Rinaldo we saw from mid-February on is the real Rinaldo, and he continues to annoy the hell out of people and draw an insane amount of penalties while managing not to take many of his own. He hits well and often but not illegally, and he can bring enough in those areas to outweigh his limitations in other areas (i.e. scoring, possession).

Worst case...

Rinaldo reverts back to his rookie-season self where he can't control himself and gets a ton of penalties, fairly or unfairly. The ice continues to tilt significantly towards the Flyers' own end when he's on the ice and he ends up being a complete liability.

Bottom line

Rinaldo will hit a ton of guys, bring good energy and continue to be really good at forcing the other team to do stupid stuff that puts the Flyers on the power play. If he's managed to cut down on the stupid penalties of his own for good, that's a bonus. If he manages to post improved offense or possession numbers, that's a double-bonus. But as it is he's a fourth-line forward. Not really anything more.

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