Keeping Zac Rinaldo on the roster should have been a matter of simple arithmetic.
Relatively speaking, he earns a substantial amount less than Jody Shelley and can serve the same role. Sure, he’s not a heavyweight — most recently, he claimed to be 185lbs., or 40lbs. less than Shelley — but he’s not afraid to square off against bigger guys.
He also did little to merit a demotion.
According to Behind the Net, Rinaldo leads the team in penalties drawn per 60 minutes (11.3), a number greater than the penalties he’s taken (8.5). As long as he continues to keep himself in check, he can develop into a valuable agitator for the Flyers.
During the offseason, Rinaldo seemed hellbent on proving he possessed the scoring ability of a top-six forward. While that’s admirable, there’s simply no room for him on one of the top two lines and, if he continues down this path, he’ll never win the battle.
Instead, Rinaldo should diversify and use this stint with the Phantoms as an opportunity to develop other aspects of his game. Foremost, he should keep working at agitating and drawing penalties while staying out of the box while adding other layers to his game but there is also a lot more he needs to do.
He should backcheck aggressively, block shots, make his way into the circle and win faceoffs, earn time on one of the penalty killing units, and work on becoming a leader both on and off the ice.
If Rinaldo wants to earn a permanent spot with the Flyers, he’s competing with not only Jody Shelley and Andreas Nodl but also every other Phantom who can fill a bottom-six role. Being a self-proclaimed forward with top-six potential is not the right way to go about it. He needs to prove that he can offer more to the big club than the rest of the competition.
Jody Shelley can fight and is a good locker room guy. Andreas Nodl can kill penalties, block some shots, and has a modicum of offensive talent. If Rinaldo can prove to be as proficient as both these players in such areas while still drawing more penalties than he takes, then he too can force the Flyers’ hand and win a spot on the team.