There’s a certain type of hockey player that climbs up through the ranks because, to put it bluntly, they’re a pain in the ass to play. They play an up-tempo style, they’re fearless, they’ll hit everything that moves, and they’ll chirp you in the process. They are Zac Rinaldo.
The thing with this type of game is that you can play it in a clean way. You don’t have to be a constant injury threat who doesn’t respect your opponents. Unfortunately, Rinaldo has yet to learn how to play that game, or he just has no interest in trying.
Two years ago he was suspended two games for a jumping shoulder to the brain of Jonathan Ericsson of the Red Wings just eight days after being fined twice for two separate incidents (a late hit and a slewfoot) in the same game. Here’s a refresher on the suspension:
His hit to head of Chad Ruhwedel earned him a match penalty, and was injurious:
Ruhwedel has a concussion. Nolan concerned about Ehrhoff. Lieuwen too ill from late hit to speak. Yikes. The beat goes on. #Sabres
— Mike Harrington (@BNHarrington) April 7, 2014
So, Rinaldo’s getting suspended. Let’s break down the play and give ‘er the old “Court of Public Opinion” assessment. How many games for this?
The toughest part to figure out here is why, just after a face-off, Rinaldo is coming from what would be the right winger’s position to challenge for a puck (or hit a guy) at all when his linemate, Matt Read, is coming out in that shooting lane. But anyway, what he know:
Zac Rinaldo is in pursuit of the puck, but Chad Ruhwedel is going to get to it first, so Rinaldo switches to hit mode. Ruhwedel opts to try to get the puck on net. He leans into the shot, lowering his body and head as the natural motion of shooting there requires. Rinaldo, too late to make a play on the puck, sees the chance to light up a vulnerable player. He tries to accelerate the force of the blow by propelling himself up and into it. His skates leave the ice. His shoulder hits Ruhwedel’s head. Ruhwedel sustains a concussion and Rinaldo is kicked out of the game.
On top of the seemingly random positional decisions by Rinaldo here, I think he had the chance to deliver a clean hit. I don’t think the angle of Ruhwedel’s head changed significantly prior to impact, and Rinaldo unquestionably jumped while catching only head. I also think Rinaldo plays like a poorly-trained Pitbull that’s been poked in its cage until it became unmanageable, and the NHL needs to get the way this guy plays in check.
The jumping stills:
I believe fines are wiped off your rap sheet after 18 months or so, but your suspension history still matters when it comes to league discipline, and so does injury. Since we know it’s only a phone hearing, I have to believe he’ll get near the most games allowed in that situation, somewhere in the four to five range. I’m fine with that.
In the comments, we’d love to hear what you think the punishment for a play like this should be. The caveat: as always with “Court of Public Opinion” posts, you have to honestly list your favourite team (I have no dog in the fight as an Isles guy). That doesn’t mean if you’re a Sabres fan and you think it was vicious and terrible that your opinion will be immediately discounted. I just think it helps with context.