Michael Del Zotto Getting Comfortable with Flyers
It was a long summer for Michael Del Zotto.
The 24-year-old defenseman wasn’t getting many calls about NHL offers after a sobering season with the New York Rangers and Nashville Predators where he struggled to find his game that made him a Calder Trophy candidate in 2010.
When Flyers general manager Ron Hextall came calling, Del Zotto knew it might be his last shot to revive a career that started out so well. Some people might have sought out a veteran in the league or family to help get back the confidence and consistency he had lost.
Del Zotto made the decision that it was a solo mission.
“It’s a lot to deal with at times,” he said. “In my young career, I’ve dealt with a lot of adversity, a lot of ups and downs. Some people think of it as negatives. I think of it as objectives and ways to be stronger mentally and help yourself get better each day and take it as a challenge rather than a setback.”
Whatever he’s doing seems to be working. Del Zotto has gone from August’s remaining free agents to the defenseman coach Craig Berube has relied on most. Del Zotto has led the Flyers in ice time each of the last four games.
“He’s not getting himself in trouble with the puck,” Berube said. “He’s moving it up, joining the rush, but the big thing for me is he’s defending. He’s defending with his stick well and his body. He’s doing a real good job with that.”
Part of the reason why Del Zotto has been relied on so heavily is injuries. Braydon Coburn is recovering from a left foot injury and Andrew MacDonald a right knee ailment. That’s meant more time for guys like Del Zotto and Nick Schultz, who signed to be the team’s seventh defenseman.
Another factor is that Del Zotto has improved from the beginning of the season, when he made some mistakes with the puck abandoning defensive coverage and was on a third pair with Luke Schenn. For the last four games he’s been up on the second pair with Schultz.
With the added responsibilities, Del Zotto’s confidence has returned.