RALEIGH, N.C. — Two years ago, then-Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke grabbed headlines at a sports analytics conference when he said: "Statistics are like a lamppost to a drunk: Useful for support, but not for illumination."
Burke, 59, knows the numbers, but is historically an "eyeball" hockey analyst, trusting what he sees on the ice.
But what happens when what the numbers say align with what the eyes already see? That would seem to be a common sense verdict, right?
Then there is Craig Berube's head-scratching decision to dress forward Zac Rinaldo in place of veteran Vinny Lecavalier for the third consecutive game on Monday.
It is hard to view the decision and make any sort of argument that the Flyers are a better hockey team with Rinaldo in the lineup and Lecavalier in the press box.
"I made the change," Berube said on Tuesday morning. "I talked to you guys (the media) about Vinny. It's been a while since he has scored. I felt that I wanted more energy and physical energy in the lineup. Zac finishes his checks. I thought he did a good job of adding that to our team."
Keep in mind: Rinaldo has not scored in 45 games played - since his last game of the 2013-14 regular season before he was suspended for the remainder of it. Lecavalier, 34, has not scored in 20 games, dating back to Jan. 3, 2015.
Rinaldo, 24, sat for two games as a healthy scratch last week after serving an eight-game suspension, the longest of his career. In his two games over the weekend, he compiled 17 minutes in penalties in exactly 14 minutes of ice time.
He was infuriated with a few of the calls, saying they're based on reputation, particularly a five-minute fighting major decision on a sequence in which he didn't actually drop the gloves with Jason Chimera and was dropped with an upper-cut.
"He had a couple bad calls against him, I thought, but that's just stuff you've got to kind of life with with him," Berube said.
Well, the "reputation" calls aren't something you've got to live with when Lecavalier is in the lineup. Rinaldo is among the most penalized players in the NHL relative to minutes played over the last three seasons.
But are the Flyers a team as capable offensively with Rinaldo in the lineup as they are with Lecavalier? Apparently not. At different times over the weekend, Berube sat Rinaldo and used Jake Voracek with Chris VandeVelde and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare to create more room and opportunity for Voracek.
To repeat: Rinaldo was glued to the bench at varying points because his linemates created more without him.
"They're different players, for sure," Berube said. "I think Bellemare and VandeVelde looked like they had chances in the game, to me. They didn't look like they weren't getting opportunities. I put Voracek there a few times and they ended up capitalizing on a big goal."
The eye test says the Flyers' fourth line with Lecavalier was producing more scoring chances consistently at even-strength than perhaps two of the other lines.
"Our line was making plays and we had opportunities," Lecavalier said. "Five-on-five, I thought we played pretty well. When you go 10 or 12 games without scoring, you tighten up a little bit. This year, it's been more of that than feeling loose. I thought as a line, we were bringing energy and we were brining opportunities."
Let's remove, for one second, the fact that Lecavalier entered this year with 396 more career goals than Rinaldo and just focus on this season's even-strength (5-on-5) numbers:
> Lecavalier has five goals an six assists for 11 points. Rinaldo has one assist.
> Lecavalier has made the players around him more productive: VandeVelde is tied for second on the team with 8 even-strength goals, more than Claude Giroux, Brayden Schenn and Matt Read. Bellemare has 4 even-strength goals.
> Rinaldo has generated 44 shot attempts by himself. Lecavalier has 105.
> Opponents have 64 more shot attempts than the Flyers do when Rinaldo is on the ice. Opponents have 58 more shot attempts than the Flyers do when Lecavalier is on the ice. It may not seem like a huge difference, but it is significant, considering Lecavalier has played 246 more minutes this season.
> Rinaldo has a team-worst 43.8 percent Corsi-for percentage (percentage of total shot attempts for the Flyers while he is on the ice) among players who have been on the roster for the entire season.
"I don't expect those guys to be happy they're not playing," Berube said. "They should be disappointed. If they weren't, then I'm not sure how competitive they would be. He's been around and he knows. Like the last time, he'll be ready when he's called on again."
Now, we're not arguing that Lecavalier's game is free of error, or that he is playing anywhere near the standards of his career or his pay grade. It's just that he doesn't make sense as the player chosen to sit out for Rinaldo - a move that doesn't pass the eye, brain or smell test.
"I'm trying to be ready, trying to be loose when I come back, to not be a robot who just chips it in and runs around," Lecavalier said. "I've got to try to go out there and feel good with the puck. I'll try to make the plays and play the way I think we have."
On Twitter: @frank_seravalli