Del Zotto sees joining Flyers as second chance

Del Zotto sees joining Flyers as second chance
August 6, 2014, 12:00 pm
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Michael Del Zotto signed a one-year deal with the Flyers Tuesday. He had been released by the Nashville Predators earlier this summer. (USA Today Images)

Mark Guy, the agent from Newport Sports who represents new Flyers defenseman Michael Del Zotto likes the comparison of his client to Steve Mason.

Sure one’s a goalie, but both share something in common: They were signed to one-year contracts with the opportunity to prove themselves in hopes of getting a future long-term deal. They were both granted second chances.

Mason was rewarded last January when he became the Flyers' No. 1 starter for the foreseeable future.

This season, it will be Del Zotto’s chance to get back on track.

“That is a big reason for the signing,” Guy told CSNPhilly.com in a text message.

Del Zotto, who was a restricted free agent cut loose by Nashville this summer (making him unrestricted), understands his situation perfectly.

The Flyers signed him Tuesday to replace Kimmo Timonen, who is out indefinitely with multiple blood clots (see story).

“Without making the playoffs, it’s been a long summer, something new for me,” Del Zotto said. “I took two weeks off and began training right away. Last season didn’t go as well as I would have liked or planned it to be. It’s been a humbling season. This offseason has been the most motivated I’ve ever been to get back and prove everyone wrong and that I can get back and be what I was before.” 

He had a strong rookie season with the Rangers in 2009-10 when he registered 37 points, and then began a series of juxtaposed good/bad years sandwiched around a career season in 2011-12 when he had 41 points and was plus-20.

Still, Del Zotto lost favor with then-Rangers coach John Tortorella because of his inconsistency on the ice, and the fact management felt he liked the Manhattan lifestyle a bit too much.

When new Rangers coach Alain Vigneault came aboard, he gave Del Zotto another chance, and again, it didn’t work out. He was traded to Nashville last winter.

A rising young star who fell out of orbit, Del Zotto said he’s learned some things along his NHL path.

“I just turned 24, and there’s still lots to learn,” he said. “Nothing is given -– everything is earned, and you can’t take anything for granted. There’s so many players out there. You need to earn every minute of ice and prove yourself every single day. 

“If I had an answer for it [my downfall], I’d be able to figure it out just as easy. I had a great rookie season, second season didn’t go as well, and my third was my best season. I was playing to my capabilities …

“Last year I lost my confidence early on, and it’s a confidence game. If you don’t believe in yourself or your abilities to make the plays you need to as an offensive player, it’s tough to go from there.”

Del Zotto’s ice time plummeted from a career-high average of 22:26 in 2011-12 as a Ranger to just 16:18 during less than a half-season with Nashville under then-coach Barry Trotz.

“It spiraled down from there and it was a bit of a domino effect,” Del Zotto said. “But it’s in the past, and this is the most motivated I have ever been.”

He added he was “never worried” about getting another NHL contract even though the Preds had made it known early on they weren’t going to re-sign him.

Flyers coach Craig Berube said on Tuesday night his initial thought was to play Del Zotto with Luke Schenn. All of Berube’s pairs have a common thread: one puck mover, one defensive-defenseman.

“I spoke with [Berube] last night and he gave me a call, just excited to start the season and get working together,” Del Zotto said.

He said he’s familiar with Schenn, too.

“I know quite a bit about him watching him,” Del Zotto said. “He plays the game very, very hard and the right way. Again, I think we complement each other very well with two different styles of play.”

Del Zotto didn’t dismiss the extra motivation of playing against the Rangers in the Metropolitan Division, but admitted that wasn’t why he signed.

“With that rivalry, that wasn’t the sole factor of me playing [here], it’s a great opportunity for me,” he said. “I really love the way this team is built … a lot of talent, young players and veterans. A lot of offensive ability. That’s where I can step in and get the puck up to those forwards and join the rush. It’s a very deep team … being very familiar with them and playing against them so many times in New York, it just seemed to be the perfect fit overall for me.”

Del Zotto played with Flyers forward Zac Rinaldo in London, Ontario, (2008-09) as a junior player after being drafted by the Rangers.

Because of his friendship with former Flyer Steve Eminger, he’s a tad familiar with Philly, too.

“I visit one or two times during the summer,” Del Zotto said. “It’s a great city, I love going there. The fans are so passionate. It’s a great sports city.”

Looking for Flyers tickets? Buy them through the Wanamaker Entertainment Group.

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