The NHL's department of player safety Monday suspended Flyers winger Zac Rinaldo eight games – a career-best, or a career-worst, depending on how you look at it – for charging and boarding Penguins defenseman Kris Letang in a Jan. 20 game.
This is the 24-year-old Rinaldo's third NHL suspension and it's double the number of games he received in April for taking out Sabres defenseman Chad Ruhwedel. He's a repeat offender likely to repeat again after this, and everyone knows it. If the league was truly intent on creating the safest possible working environment, it would punish team owners, GMs and coaches for every wanton act performed by a professional agitator such as Rinaldo. But the absence of such a punishment system speaks volumes.
Makes you feel sorry for the next guy Rinaldo hurts, is what it does. Because, when you're reading this in a web archive years from now, make no mistake – the serious, perhaps career-threatening injury Rinaldo inflicts on a player the next time he gets suspended was entirely preventable. The league, and the NHL players' association, just didn't show enough determination to truly rid the game of "rats" like Rinaldo. You can predict the next outbreak of bad behavior from an agitator relatively easily, because even a casual observer can see it's how a player in that role is conditioned and groomed to perform.
And if you don't think Rinaldo's getting suspended again after the Letang hit – if you honestly believe he's learned his lesson and is now a changed man – you should be admired for your positivity, but not your ability to learn from history.