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In an earlier article I predicted a return to Broad Street Bully hockey in 2011-12
To avoid an embarrassing beat-down reminiscent of the semifinal sweep at the hands of the Boston Bruins last season, the Flyers need to get a whole lot tougher.
Agitator/enforcer Dan Carcillo found a new home with the Chicago Blackhawks via free agency over the summer. Jody Shelley is a strong veteran locker room presence, but at 35 years old, the Flyers will have to consider other options as Shelley's limited speed and skills continue to decline.
Theses circumstances open the door for 21-year-old winger Zac Rinaldo. A sixth round draft pick in 2008, Rinaldo earned the nickname Ogie Oglethorpe for his playoff call-ups against Buffalo and Boston last season where it became clear that his only job was to physically intimidate and punish the Sabres and Bruins.
Rinaldo played 60 games with the Adirondack Phantoms last season, where he tallied three goals, six assists and 331 penalty minutes. Rinaldo's postseason call-up garnered some controversy, as his four suspensions were greater than his goal total.
In the two seasons prior to joining Philadelphia's American Hockey League affiliate, Rinaldo held the distinction as the Ontario Hockey League's most penalized player, leading the league with 201 penalty minutes in 2008-09, then topping that total with 255 in 2009-10.
The Flyers have never shied away from players who walk (and sometimes cross) the line throughout their history, whether it be the original bully, Dave Schultz in the 70's, or more contemporary goons such as Jesse Boulerice, who was once charged with assault for two-handing an opponent in the face, or Steve Downie, who's intensity and stupidity can sometimes weave themselves into poor on-ice decisions, like slashing a referee.
Coach Peter Laviolette made a statement by sitting Carcillo for a large chunk of last season. If Rinaldo is able to play physically while maintaining discipline and goading opponents into penalties rather than taking them himself then he could play a significant role as the Flyers' primary enforcer.
And no matter how much the game changes, this town will always love an enforcer, and personally I've been looking to replace my #29 Frank Bialowas jersey for quite some time now.