FlamesNation player evaluation: David Rittich

David Rittich entered the season as the backup to Mike Smith, starting just seven of the team’s first 20 games. However, as the season progressed, it was clear that the newly-coined Big Save Dave would move forward as the Flames starting goaltender by the All-Star Game.

Unfortunately, battling injury for over half the season, the Flames opted to rely on Smith again while letting Rittich reprise his role as the backup. In a season that could be seen as Rittich’s rise in the Flame’s goaltender ranks, his formidable play has given fans and the Flames hope of having a reliable starting goaltender for years to come.

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2018-19 season summary

Early in the season, Smith vastly struggled in net. It was Rittich’s perfect opportunity to steal the starting job, and he made his case. In every aspect of the game, Rittich outperformed Smith. While it seemed like the coaching staff did everything they could to get Smith back to the All-Star form he was just one season prior, Rittich slowly and surely put up solid numbers in every chance he got.

For much of the year, Rittich was grouped among the best goaltenders in the league, in both traditional stats such as save percentage, as well as analytics-based numbers like goals saved above average. It was everything Rittich could have hoped for, coming off a shaky end to the previous campaign. The steady improvement in Rittich’s play coupled with his on-ice poise (unless angry) had many calling him the next Miikka Kiprusoff.

Flames fans have been waiting years and years for a bona fide starting goalie and pouring every ounce of hope into it being Rittich just seemed like the natural thing to do. He was so easy to cheer for; his admiration was rapidly earned. From hug after hug with Matthew Tkachuk, to absolutely calling Johnny Gaudreau’s overtime goal against the Colorado Avalanche, Rittich was a joy to watch.

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In his eighth appearance of the season, Rittich earned his first career shutout against the Los Angeles Kings. The shutout came amidst a personal six-game win streak for Rittich. Later in the season, starting from the epic Calgary versus Tampa Bay showdown, Rittich had a span of earning standing points in 12 straight appearances (9-0-3). He ended the season with a phenomenal 27-9-5 record.

Games Played Save Percentage ES Save Percentage PK Save Percentage
45 .911 .923 .847

Data from Natural Stat Trick.

Compared to last season

Rittich improved his overall and even strength save percentage, up from .904 and .908, respectively. His save percentage on the penalty kill took a bit of a hit, dropping from .881 last year. Going 8-6-3 last season in 21 games played, the turnaround for Rittich was nothing short of exceptional. This year, he started 42 games, compared to last season’s 16. Most notably, he more than tripled his win total to go with his increased workload.

There are bounce back seasons, and there are breakthrough seasons. When comparing 2018-19 to 2017-18, calling Rittich’s performance anything less than a breakthrough would be criminal.

What about next season?

Expect the Flames to re-sign Rittich this offseason, who will require waivers moving forward. That shouldn’t be a problem though, as he should be the starting goaltender for 2019-20. The argument of who the Flames should use as their starter last season lasted a total of 87 games. As it turned out, had it not been for Rittich’s aforementioned injury, that argument would have likely resolved itself much sooner. As pointed out by Pat Steinberg, prior to getting hurt, Rittich posted a .920 SV%, compared to after, where he dropped down to .902%.

The big question mark will be how the Flames manage Rittich’s upcoming workload. Will Rittich fully recover from his injury and maintain a high level of play? With uncertainty of what the Flames’ goaltending tandem will look like heading into next season, it’s harder to predict what said workload will be. It would be reasonable to expect that he’d at least get half the starts, as Rittich made his case that he’s capable of excellent goaltending and can see success at the NHL level.

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The Flames have a promising goaltender in Rittich, and it would be very much in everyone’s benefit to have him be the starter come October. Only time will tell if Rittich can replicate the success he enjoyed this year. The Flames’ competitive window is now open, and suffice to say, having Rittich as one of the two goaltenders the Flames can rely on night-in and night-out should definitely be a part of their long-term plan.

2018-19 player evaluations

#4 Rasmus Andersson | #5 Mark Giordano | #7 TJ Brodie | #8 Juuso Valimaki | #10 Derek Ryan | #11 Mikael Backlund | #13 Johnny Gaudreau | #18 James Neal | #19 Matthew Tkachuk | #21 Garnet Hathaway | #23 Sean Monahan | #24 Travis Hamonic | #27 Austin Czarnik | #28 Elias Lindholm

  • freethe flames

    What is a fair and reasonable deal for Rittich? 3x$3m? He has earned a raise and some trust based upon his work here. The question is who be his partner? Do they gamble and go with Gilles or do they look elsewhere. Time will tell.

    • SGRietzey

      I doubt very much they’ll be gambling with Gillies, regardless of his one-way contract next season. I feel like experienced/veteran backup at a reasonable price is probably a higher likelihood.

      All three of your suggestions in your second comment present interesting options. Mrazek had a solid albeit streaky rebound season, and could be a good platoon add for the right price, but I don’t see him wanting to sign for much less than his current $4M after this year. Assuming a Rittich deal in the $3-4M range, that means you’re likely paying $7M+ for your tandem, and there’s likely better use of what will be limited cap space. I think Carolina hangs onto him unless they push hard for say, a Lehner or Bobrovsky, or a team like Edmonton throws money at him to help rectify their mistake with Koskinen.

      Nilsson could be a potential steal; struggled in Van but still put up a 0.914 s% in 22 games with an atrocious team. Made $2M last year and I feel like he won’t be in line for substantial raise (and it’s Ottawa, so I doubt anyone is chomping at the bit to stick around there).

      The Athletic had a really good piece on McElhinney recently; he’d probably be a great team guy, should still be affordable despite a couple good recent years, and would hopefully be steady, but I struggle with whether he can keep putting up the numbers he has given he’ll be 36 to start the season. At that point, there’s probably an argument to be made for Ryan Miller as well, or if Smith’s willing to take a cut to say ~$2M for one year, it could make sense from a GM’s vantage point to maintain that relationship rather than disrupt the status quo.

      Personally – provided they don’t go with a FA option, I would kick the tires on getting Darcy Kuemper or Anton Khudobin. I don’t think either come cheap, but they’re effective and can be re-evaluated/retained after next season. I doubt Chayka’s eager to deal Kuemper after the year he had, especially with Raanta’s injury history, but that would be a near-perfect fit of cap (1.85M) and consistent performance (0.925 in 55 games). Khudobin has historically been solid and consistent and only has a $2.5M hit for next year.

  • Flamesforever

    I’d be happy if we never drafted a goalie again. Best way to get them is sign a FA or trade for a teams 1B and see if he can be a 1A. I think Rittich will only be better next season, he needs to improve his conditioning this offseason.

  • Off the wall

    Rittich is the type of goalie you love to watch. He’s always happy- go- lucky, and his celebrations are epic.

    From jumping up and down, when Gaudreau had a breakaway against Colorado…
    ( too bad we didn’t capitalize in the playoffs) to the interview where he admitted he loves his Coca- Cola, he’s a interesting character you love to root for.

    I bought Mrs Otw a soda stream at Christmas due to her same love of Coca- Cola. It’s been collecting dust ever since. Apparently, you can’t duplicate the taste of it, no matter what you do.

    And you can’t duplicate what Rittich does for our Flames’.
    He’s the fizz ( carbonation) that makes you want MORE!

    And he loves HUGS..

    • The Red Knight

      Yes but it’s one season and the team finished 1rst in the west ,how many games did you see Rittich have to steal all season?maybe 1 game and that’s the truth . Personalities are great but I’d rather have Brad Marchand taking us into the final than so someone that likes hugs, actually now that you mention it ,No more Hugs !!! This team needs to “get mean or get off the team “!!!

      • Luter 1

        100% agree we have to get tougher but when your goalie is probably your toughest guy (Smith) your in trouble. The fact Rittich is passionate is great and you can tell he loves the game, in contrast Brodie looks like he would rather be drinking a beer and smoking a doobie.

  • The Flaming C

    On a side note, TSN Trade Bait just came out and Frolik and Hamonic were on it… Brodie was not. Frolik doesn’t surprise me because he was apart of a done deal for Zucker at the deadline that fell through because the paperwork wasn’t completed but the fact that Hamonic was on there scares me because they are usually very accurate in their lists. Could the Flames be shopping Hamonic instead of Brodie? What do you guys think?

    • withachance

      I dont think they’re shopping Hamonic specifically.

      Those lists are usually pure speculation and changes at least 10 times until the draft. The reason Hamonic is even talked about is because there’s an opening on the right side of WPG’s blueline with the likely departur of Trouba and Myers. Hamonic has 2 years left, and already in western Canada. I dont see why Flames would trade him or why he’d even want to leave.

      • Off the wall

        I’ll put a spin on this. Hamonic and Hanifin were torched in the playoffs. Underlying numbers for both were near the bottom.

        There could be some truth to it, although Hamonic improved (quite a bit) over the regular season, he was actually our worst D in the playoffs, according to Hockey Reference.

        Valamaki, Andersson and Fantenberg were our best, believe it or not for the amount played.

        Is Treliving shopping him? Dunno, but where there’s smoke…

        • The Red Knight

          Probably due to weaker matchups and sheltering for Vali and co. I think I can only pick about 4 FLames maybe that played decent in the playoffs the rest of the team was horrendous, Smith ,Bennett Lindholm,Anderson,Valimaki were ok , pretty much epic failure from the rest of the team . We need a Getzlaf type top centre!

          • The Red Knight

            SKYLar use your eye gauge too , but yes there were a few shifts where Vali and Anderson paired up against top 6 and they looked good , that’s why they were the two I also said we’re one of the the 5 Flames that were decent in the playoffs. Smith,Bennett,Lindholm Anderson,Vali , how many minutes did they playtogether against top lines ? Only 5 games remember so I’m gonna go out on a limb and say it’s a small sample size , my eye will always be superior to any corsi . I said the Flames were not tough enough for playoffs and despite there corsi number 1 in the west stats/corsi ,I was right ….again stats don’t lie.

        • withachance

          I get that playoffs are important, but man everyone here is prioritizing 5 games of playoffs over 82 games of regular season.

          I get that playoff performances are important, but we also cant forget how well players played during the regular season

        • RealMcHockeyReturns

          Could be right that Hamonic is traded to Wpg and hopefully with Frolik ($1M retained) for Trouba as that would even out salaries if Trouba signs for $6.5-ish with Flames. Jets are moderate budget team, could use a 2-for-1 deal for 2 good players both with ties to area. And Flames get a stud and clear room for young players.

      • Kevin R

        Interesting about the Winnipeg situation but Hamonic only has 1 year left. I heard he loves Calgary but to be back in Winnipeg, he may sign a pretty good home town discount for the Jets. Jets dont have that many picks left so it would have to be a player. Trouba seems to want to play in the US but lots of reports about a huge riff in the locker room over there. Would Tre look at taking a run at Trouba & take a swing at signing him. Exactly the type of D we need. Still think Brodie gets moved too. Is it time we revisit Kessel?

        The other side of me sees that craft Tre putting out Hamonic to attract the buyers, quote a steep price & then do the ole bait & switch & go….wellll….we do have Brodie you can have for this….or….Stone who you can have for this bargain basement price. Teams up against the cap may consider Stone at a $2.0 mill cap if Calgary eat 1.5 mill.
        Some interesting scenarios developing, the draft is better & more active than the Trade Deadline by a country mile.

      • BrennyBaller

        I think the belief is the Flames will have to trade one of Brodie or Hamonic due to cap restrictions and the emergence of the young D. When looking at the two of them you have a puck moving left handed D for $4.65 and a right handed stay at home D for $3.85. From this standpoint, Hamonic is likely more valuable as he is cheaper, and the ever elusive right shot D many teams covet. However, I do think the Flames truly value Hamonic’s character and leadership, and I don’t think they are shopping him, but I’m sure they are getting calls.

    • Luter 1

      I wouldn’t be that scared, Hamonic for a veteran played like a scared rookie in the playoffs, stunk last year and beyond blocking shots is not terribly aggressive. Everybody likes his passion but he is replaceable if somebody sees more value than he is worth.

      • Porcupine at a balloon party

        Not sure why all the trashes Luter. What you’re saying is true. Specifically the last part “he is replaceable of somebody sees more value than he’s worth”… I’ll add a caveat there, more value than he’s worth “to us”. Same goes for Brodie, or Gio or anyone on the team for that matter. Gio won’t be traded because he’s worth more to us as our captain (not sure who would take that mantle yet… Would love to see tkachuck become captain, but he seems too young, even if plenty of players become captains at younger ages), our heart and soul of team and one of our best players. Brodie plays great (some argue against that, but he’s high risk high Reward) with Gio but not that great apart. Teams would have to take risk they can get him some chemistry to be a positive top 4 defenceman

        • The Red Knight

          There’s a group here that like to trash instead of putting there trash where there mouth is , there the ones that know nothing about hockey, just read the threads it’s not hard to spot out who they are .

    • Flamesforever

      I take whatever TSN says about the Flames with a grain of salt, I wouldn’t be surprised if that was a mistake. There’s no way we are trading Hamonic instead of Brodie this summer. Brodie is as good as gone.

  • The Flaming C

    On a side note, TSN Trade Bait just came out and Frolik and Hamonic were on it… Brodie was not. Frolik doesn’t surprise me because he was apart of a done deal for Zucker at the deadline that fell through because the paperwork wasn’t completed but the fact that Hamonic was on there scares me because they are usually very accurate in their lists and I would hate to lose Hamonic. Could the Flames be shopping Hamonic instead of Brodie? What do you guys think?

  • wot96

    Sure. Give the man something reasonable but let’s not forget that it wasn’t goaltending that killed the Flames in the playoffs. There are some other issues that need to be dealt with too otherwise, failing a Kipper in his prime type performance for one or more series, the Flames are not going to succeed.

    Yeah, yeah, channeling Raffydog. But still.

  • Lazarus

    Let us not forget the absolute masterful job Peters did defying the clamor of the majority to roll with the feel good story Rittich even after his numbers had obviously fallen off continuing to show faith in Mike Smith. Result – Smith being the team’s best player In the playoffs.
    Masterful and crow was had by damn near all. Yummmm

    • Luter 1

      The 5 game slap down wasn’t as masterful as he didn’t change a thing from beginning to end of that series of coming up with a game-plan to slow down McKinnon and the Avs through the neutral zone and nothing to get Gaudreau away from the hounding of the Avs. Plus the fore-check was invisible so they played 5 games that was very suited to the Avalanches advantage. Hopefully he learned something because coaching was a big part of our failure.

      • Beer League Coach

        Hamonic is from St Malo. Mike Stone is from Wpg. Maybe trade both of them to the Jets. Not sure what we could get back from them that we need to improve our team. Wheeler and a 3rd round draft pick?

        • HOCKEY83

          Wheeler would have to want to come to the Flames. Full NMC for the next If I was him I’d rather stick with scheifele. Do you think the Flames could afford his $8.25 until he’s 37 and how well has that worked for the flames in the past with players of that age.

  • The Red Knight

    He’s a decent backup so far but anything over 2 mill Could be too much ,Team success could be more of a factor , 1 year contract, no more Darryl sutter contracts please ….ever !!

  • Puck Head

    So let’s see if I understand things correctly. We sit Rittich and play Smith in the playoffs but we’re going to bring Rittich back as our #1 and pay him accordingly? It doesn’t add up and I won’t be surprised if Smith is back or Tre goes goalie shopping. With Tre at the helm we really have no clue what he is going to do.

    I like Rittich but we still don’t know what we have in him.

        • HOCKEY83

          Flames have done so well in the past trying to resurrect goalie careers. Exactly what the Flames need…a goalie coming in with 0 confidence. He’s so good they didn’t give him a game in the playoffs. He’s been very bad for 5 straight seasons.

      • Beer League Coach

        Might be a good team mate for Alexander Yelesen. Alex could potentially replace Hamonic at RD and Varly could be a good tandem with Rittich. Keep the term short. No longer than 2 years @ $2mm for Varly. Still don’t know what Yelesen could do in the NHL. Maybe I am a little too optimistic about him, but he was an all star last year in KHL.