Flyers forward Zac Rinaldo was on the Mike Missanelli Show this afternoon on 97.5 The Fanatic. It was an interesting conversation and, at times, extremely uncomfortable. I took the pleasure of transcribing it below.
Zac Rinaldo: I just play hard every, single shift. I never leave anything on the ice. I'm a hard-nosed player is how I would describe it.
MM: What is your mission when you're out there?
ZR: Create energy, loosen up pucks for my wingers and just play the system. Do everything my coach asks me to do.
MM: I look at that style of play as one that puts you in the penalty box and, therefore, puts your team in a worse spot. How do you respond to that?
ZR: You don't know nothing, man.
MM: I don't know nothing? Well, there are a lot of games where you have taken foolish penalties, right?
ZR: Who takes foolish penalties?
MM: You! Have you not taken foolish penalties?
ZR: How so? This year?
MM: Yeah, this year.
MM: You haven't taken any foolish penalties this year?
ZR: No, sir.
MM: Have you structured your game and you're saying you used to take foolish penalties and now you don't?
ZR: No. I take penalties maybe because the refs don't think my hit's clean. But if you dissect it, like I talked to [NHL Vice President of Player Safety Brendan] Shanahan the other day and he said "we look at every single one of your penalties. We look at every single one of your hits. All your hits are clean. You know sometimes the ref disagrees with the way you hit" but he said, "the majority of your hits are clean." So, proofs in the pudding right there, he's a big man who looks at every single one of my hits.
MM: Alright well let me ask you this then, because it seems to me officials pay special attention to you and they are just waiting to give you something. Do you feel that way?
ZR: Sometimes. Depends on who the ref is.
MM: When you get called for a penalty you think is unfair, what do you say?
ZR: I can't say nothing.
MM: You don't say anything?
ZR: "You could've given me a break." If I really think it's, you know, borderline on the edge and I think he could've given me a break I'll say, you know, "you could've given me a break."
MM: You're not that big of a guy. How did you become a tough hockey player? Where in your background did you learn to play this way?
ZR: I didn't learn to play it. I was just kinda born with it. No one taught me how to fight. No one taught me how to hit. I was just born with it. It's kinda natural so I ran with that.
MM: You adopted that style because you feel like the star players, the players that have a little more talent need to be protected by your style, sort of?
ZR: No. I don't think "protected" is the words but I don't know. Maybe people think I'm going out there to protect people but I'm not. I'm going out there and doing what I've always been doing since I was eight years old - I've been hitting people; I've been full of energy.
MM: Alright Zac, let's talk about the suspension. Four games for the illegal head shot. As that play is unfolding, what are you thinking?
ZR: Have you ever played hockey?
MM: Yeah but not obviously at your level but I've played hockey.
ZR: Oh okay, then you should know things happen so fast.
MM: Oh okay, you weren't really targeting his head, it's just one of those things that happened?
ZR: Yeah, it's just I batted the puck in an area I didn't want to bat the puck to so I skated as hard as I could towards the defenseman. As reaction and instinct, I always put my shoulder down when I go out at a defenseman and he is a righthanded shot so he kinda shot the puck righthanded then dipped low. I don't know. It was bad timing on my part. Bad timing on his part. Just, uh, I hit his head clearly.
MM: Did you know right away that was going to be bad news for you?
ZR: Yeah. Yeah, I know.
MM: Okay so how does that change the way you're going to play the next time?
ZR: It doesn't. I'm just gonna hit him harder in the shoulder.
MM: But now you're getting into the playoffs and people aren't going with that. In the playoffs, maybe you gotta think twice about going like that.
ZR: No I'm just going to hit him harder and next time I'm going to hit his shoulder.
MM: Alright but you know taking penalties in the playoffs is not a good thing.
ZR: Who's taking penalties? I'm not taking penalties.
MM: Alright, listen, Zac. Let me ask the final question. Playing for a guy like [Craig] Berube, who obviously played with a style similar to you when he did play, does that help you as a player? Do you feel you've gained more acceptance with this type of a coach?
ZR: No, not really. If anything, I need to show him more that I can play on a regular shift and on a regular line. So him being how he played didn't give me an edge or an up on anyone else.
MM: Alright you guys are going to the playoffs. Some fans are saying this matchup is better, no that matchup is better. When you look at the playoffs coming up, how confident of a team are you that you can play with these teams ahead of you?
ZR: We're confident. We've beaten the best and we've hung with the best. We don't really care who we play. We don't really care how we start - home or away - but we're going to come out and play every game likes it's our last.
They exchanged pleasantries and went on their way.
There were a number of interesting things to come of this but, for me, the most interesting part was Rinaldo does not believe he has taken any foolish penalties this year. In addition to that, he later stated, rather defiantly, "Who's taking penalties? I'm not taking penalties."
Coming off of a game in which he was called for four penalties, including a match-penalty that resulted in a four-game suspension, it is safe to say I'm confused by this statement. He leads the team in penalty minutes and was just suspended for a illegal hit to the head with his team leading 4-0 in the third period. Not only has he taken penalties but some of them have been foolish.
Missanelli and I totally disagree on Rinaldo. He doesn't believe there is a need for a guy like Rinaldo on the team but I think he brings a lot to the table as far as energy, physicality and, if necessary, and ability to help out on the penalty kill. Anyone who has watched the Flyers this year will tell you Rinaldo has gotten better about the penalties he takes and has learned to draw penalties in the process.
Improvement? Definitely. But to say he isn't taking foolish penalties or penalties at all? I don't know if we are watching the same game.
The good news is the organization feels they are better with Rinaldo on the ice and he will be back in time for the playoffs.
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