A familiar position for Michael Del Zotto

 

The Flyers coach Craig Berube has been taking a lot of heat this season for the rather dumb decisions that he’s made with his roster. For the most part those dumb moves have been issues with offensive players whether it be breaking up lines that were obviously effective or not playing skilled young players in favor of older players like R.J. Umberger and Vinny Lecavalier. Now with Braydon Coburn and Andrew MacDonald back from injuries the Flyers have an excess of defensemen which has led to even more dumb roster decisions from Berube.

CORSIHere we have the corsi values for the Flyers defensemen (not including Carlo Colaiacovo). Putting it simply, the redder your circle the worse your corsi values are and the bluer the circle the better, if you believe in those fancystats stuff. This chart shows the worst defensemen statistically are Nick Grossmann and Andrew MacDonald, Nick Schultz too to an extent. Braydon Coburn is kind of neutral unless you’re watching a game then he’s absolute shit. When Coburn came back from his injury, Colaiacovo was the first and expected scratch. When Andrew MacDonald came back Luke Schenn was scratched to make room. If you haven’t looked at the blue circles on the chart, Luke Schenn is one of them. Scratching one of your better Defensemen for MacDonald didn’t make sense to anyone, people called for MacDonald to be scratched and for one game they got it. MacDonald was scratched (along with Bellmare) and everyone was happy. Then the next game we were told that Vinny Lecavalier was going to be scratched, we rejoiced thinking that Lecavalier AND MacDonald were gonna be sitting in the press box, it seemed like Berube was actually learning how to stick to his “accountability” idea he preached when he started his coaching job. Well excitement quickly turned to confused rage when we learned that Michael Del Zotto would be joining Lecavalier in the press box instead of Andrew MacDonald. One of Berube’s stupidest decisions to date could be benching one of the Flyers best 3 defensemen in favor of Andrew freakin MacDonald, but here we are two games later and MacDonald is still in for Del Zotto despite the obvious stupidity.

Del Zotto was obviously a bit annoyed at the coach’s decision to make him a healthy scratch.

“I was a little bit surprised when I came to the rink this morning, a little bit disappointed, frustrated, all of the above,” he said. “Things obviously aren’t going as well as the team would like as of late, and we’re trying to find a way to get some wins, so it’s the coach’s decision. All I can control is how hard I work each day, and that’s it.” Del Zotto said in an article from Randy Miller.

Unfortunately this kind of situation is all to familiar to Del Zotto. Before the Flyers picked him up from the free agency, Del Zotto was in the doghouse of two teams that led to a season split between the Rangers and the Predators where he spent more time in the press box than on the ice. It seemes like Del Zotto hasn’t really been liked by an organization since his rookie season with the Rangers.

After putting up 37 points in his rookie season, expectations for the 19-20 year old were pretty high. When he didn’t quite meet those standards early in the season, the Rangers dropped him to the AHL affiliate. In his sophmore season he only had 11 points in 47 games played with the Rangers. His second full season, however, Del Zotto had a resurgence with 10 goals and 31 assists in 77 games. On January 22, 2014 Del Zotto was traded to the Predators, partly because coach Alain Vigneault wasn’t happy with him and had him playing 3 pairing minutes and partly because “they wanted a more defensive type defenseman”.  With the Predators Del Zotto found himself even less liked spending most of his time in Nashville as a healthy scratch only playing 25 games. “It was a good try,” Poile said of the trade. “The disappointing part is Del Zotto is a good player, but right now he’s miscast.” That last sentence could sum up Del Zotto’s whole career, being constantly misused by coaches who for some reason didn’t like him. That story seems to be continuing now with Craig Berube.

So what exactly is everyone’s problem with MDZ? Maybe it has something to do with that porn star who went on a twitter rant about Del Zotto asking her to set him up with someone? She was offended that a 20 something year old NHL star didn’t want to hook up with an aging porn star so she ranted about his texting at 9am on a Sunday. Flyers GM Ron Hextall had a different theory about Del Zotto’s misuse that was more about expectations of Del Zotto than anything else.

Hextall’s thoughts on Del Zotto’s career are quoted in a New York Post article by Howie Kussoy

“It’s so hard. These kids come in and get so much money and so much fame, you’re living in New York City and we expect them to be what we call ‘pros.’ No. They’re in a process at 20, 21, 22 years old, figuring out what it is to be a pro … You go from being a junior hockey player playing in front of 3,000 people and riding a bus to playing at Madison Square Garden or Wells Fargo in front of 19,000 people. You’re in the NHL, in front of Hockey Night in Canada. It’s … national TV. It’s a big adjustment for any kid in any walk of life. It’s a lot tougher than people think. These young people have to grow up in a hurry.”

Del Zotto, the 20th overall pick in the 2008 draft, turned 24 this summer.

“You’re watching a little part where he was struggling, and admittedly, didn’t play the type of hockey he is capable of playing,” Hextall said. “If you’re taking it on that, a couple years ago he had 41 points and it’s a little bit of a different story. If you see Player X playing and he is at the down point of his year, you might not think he’s a good player, he’s having a terrible year, my God, this guy can’t even play. He comes back the next year and you go, ‘Wow, he’s a pretty good player.’ “

Because of expectations of a young player to mature rapidly, Del Zotto found himself out of favor with his drafting team and with a bit of a negative view of him in general. Del Zotto’s situation was a lot like another young star on the East Coast who Del Zotto was pretty friendly with. In the offseason Del Zotto worked with Tyler Seguin to help refocus himself and get ready to prove people who doubted him wrong. Seguin’s whole story probably encouraged Del Zotto as Seguin found himself traded away from the Bruins because of “maturity issues”. Seguin went on to have a breakout year and is now an elite player with the Dallas Stars.

“I think living with him and having him deal with all the nonsense that happened with him being traded from Boston to Dallas and then the phenomenal year he had last year, it was pretty easy to lean on him and have him there for advice,” Del Zotto said about his offseason with Seguin. If Seguin had his way Del Zotto might have gone to Dallas with him.

For the first part of the season Del Zotto was proving to be a steal for the Flyers (a 1 year $1.3 million deal) and one of the Flyers best defensemen along with veteran Mark Streit, but now Del Zotto finds himself in a familiar position, in the press box; except this time Del Zotto isn’t quite sure what happened to make him expendable. After over a seson of not sticking to his “accountability” mantra, Craig Berube has decided the people who need to be held accountable are sometimes the ones who are already doing their jobs well, and not the players who are actually failing miserably at their jobs. For the last two games in California Del Zotto has shared the press box with Vincent Lecavalier, a player whose talent and production has hit a steep drop since joining the Flyers, and Carlo Colaiacovo another defenseman who could be considered a better option than the ones who are seeing the most ice time.

Berube did offer his thought process on benching Del Zotto in that same Randy Miller article saying that Del Zotto wasn’t playing as defensively as he’d like. “He was trying to do too much himself. To me, his defensive play has dropped off a little. I talked to him today about getting back on track, moving the puck, joining the rush, not leading the rush, and playing better defense.”

Basically Berube has been confusing Del Zotto with Coburn who is frequently seen ahead of the rush, behind the opposing net and usually not in his own position. Del Zotto threw some subtle shade at the coaches decision saying “Yeah, everyone has to be better. Everyone can be better in here, and that’s really what it boils down to. There’s not one or two guys that changes things around. It’s going to take a full team effort — all four lines, all 6 D and the goalies. Until we get everybody going, we’re going to still be in a slump.” Simply put Del Zotto knows that he isn’t the problem. He kept going making sure his point was made saying again “Everyone needs to take accountability and responsibility of themselves to bring forth a better effort and help each other get out of the slump we’re in.”

Del Zotto certainly doesn’t belong in the box like Andrew MacDonald or Nick Grossmann do, but under Berube logic isn’t the template we follow. Berube is probably still testing his healthy scratches to see who gives the team that elusive win, but the Flyers have looked better, more skilled and more energetic since going to California so it’s a strong possibility that Berube attributes the boost to scratching Del Zotto; even though the team still hasn’t won.

UPDATE:

According to Dave Isaac of the Courier Post, it looks like Del Zotto will be back in the line up paired up with Andrew MacDonald. That means that Luke Schenn will be a healthy scratch again. That’s right Berube benches one of the top 3 defensemen yet again. It seems like Berube will never learn.

 

 

Follow Evening the Score Philly on twitter @ETSPhilly

Follow Aj Maiorana @MaioranaSauce

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2 thoughts on “A familiar position for Michael Del Zotto

  1. I don’t understand why coaches turn on him like they do. It makes me wonder how much his “extracurricular activities” have to do with it.

    This same thing happened last year in Nashville. When he first went there he was fine, and then suddenly he started getting scratched, when he did play he was a wreck. It’s going to be very interesting to see how he reacts to this. All I’ve wanted from the beginning of the season for him was to stay on the team all year and repair his reputation to the point that he will be able to play somewhere next season on a contract that he doesn’t have to wait untl August for.

  2. Love to see the ZS% context in the player usage chart. Del Zotto historically gets lots of OZSs, but he’s posting solid possession numbers for the Flyers and isn’t getting negative zone starts, which isn’t what you’d expect from him. Seems like he’s thriving in that system.

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