Calgary Flames

Sunday Census: Confidence in David Rittich, a Jimmy Howard trade, and the Curtis Lazar recall

Welcome back to The Sunday Census. Throughout the week, The Win Column will be posing topical and intriguing polls on Twitter (@wincolumnblog) to gauge the fan-base’s stance on pressing issues. Want to make sure your opinion is taken into effect? Vote in the polls, start a debate, and propose alternative suggestions on the polls!

The Flames did not play their best game against the league-leading Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday. In the midst of their losing streak, the team looked vastly outplayed on many levels. David Rittich‘s goaltending was particularly an area of concern, as he allowed six goals on only 27 shots faced. Big Save Dave appears to have been made mortal again.

Now that Mike Smith has started the past two games (and played well), the never-ending Flames goaltender debate becomes much more interesting, yet again. We wanted to know after this recent cold streak from Rittich what the confidence level in him for the rest of the season.

The results show only 7% think that an new goaltender is needed. This of course also came before Mike Smith played very well in his back to back starts, but nonetheless it still shows that the fan-base believes in Rittich. Just because he has has a few poor outings does not mean that they need to go out and spend assets to have him sit on the bench.

Next highest on the chart was full belief in Rittich, which garnered 38% of the vote. The Flames and the fans have been enamoured with Rittich this season, not only with his demeanor, but also with his play on the ice. Every goaltender has their ups and downs and clearly fans think this is just a lull in his play. The team wouldn’t be in the same position that they are in now if it wasn’t for Rittich. Gotta give him time to work through his funk. This group of fans believe in the Czech netminder and feel confident with him between the pipes.

Unfortunately, the poll winner, and my personal choice, went to the “starting to get worried” option. 55% of voters are in the same boat, they haven’t loved what they have seen from Rittich as of late. That is starting to make them sweat a bit. There is no denying how well he has played this entire season, but since the All-Star break he looks to be a different goaltender. In fact if we are comparing Rittich to Smith going back to November 25th, Rittich is 12-3-5 over that span, while Smith is now 10-4-1. Both goalies are getting wins, but right now Smith appears to have the hotter hand. He also sports playoff experience, which could give him the edge come April.

Rittich will be the #1 goaltender next season, no doubt about it, but he is undeniably on the hot seat at the moment. He will get another opportunity to start very soon, but he most likely will be judged much harder on it than in the past. With the trade deadline fast approaching, the team needs both goaltenders to hit their strides.


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Speaking of that pesky trade deadline, Frank Seravelli of TSN took a hard dive into the Flames’ goaltending situation and what candidates would be available should they look to make an upgrade. It was also reported that one of those candidates, Jimmy Howard, was a person of interest for the Flames and someone they had inquired about already.

This season, Howard has been a bright spot for an otherwise miserable season in Detroit. He holds a 17-15-5 record with a 2.82 GAA and .913 SV%. He is a UFA at the end of the season and currently holds a cap hit of $5,291,666M. It’s rumoured that Detroit would like a first round pick for the long time Red Wing netminder, but of course that is negotiable. With the Flames’ goaltending situation always being a talking point it makes sense for the team to inquire. What we wanted to know was what the census was on the team potentially acquiring the 34 year old goaltender.

Only 8% of fans are strongly on board with the move. Not really surprising due to both the potential acquisition cost as well as the fact that there is no guarantee he will find the same success in Calgary. Trading for goalies can always be a tricky move, especially at the trade deadline.

A higher proportion of fans, 37% to be exact, think that Howard would be an upgrade to the current tandem. His numbers are much better than Smith’s this season, with Howard even sporting a better GAA than Rittich at the moment. There is no doubt that based on the season as a whole, Howard would be an upgrade at that position. The real question is just how much of an upgrade would he be?

That being said, 55% of fans think that there is no need to acquire Howard, and I agree. Trading for a goaltender is a very tough move to make at this point in the season. More than a rental forward, the goaltender is expected to come in and make an impact on a much different scale. Howard has has a nice year, but there is always a chance he can’t find his game in Calgary.

They don’t need another guy trying to find his game come April. Furthermore, and the eyes may roll here, team chemistry is huge at this time of year. I think that the current tandem works well; messing that up could be a big deal, especially since Smith would most likely be going the other way.

It’s possible that Howard is the missing piece to the puzzle for the team, but the assets to acquire him would be better served on an upgrade somewhere else.

With James Neal suffering a shoulder injury and his timeline unknown, the Flames were in need of a Stockton recall. There were plenty of options in front of them, but the team opted for Curtis Lazar.

Spending the entire 2018-19 campaign in the AHL, Lazar has had quite the season. With 16 goals, 20 assists, and an AHL All-Star game appearance, a stint in the AHL looked to be exactly what he needed after a down year in Calgary. Of course soon after the recall happened, there looked to be tons of mixed emotions. What were the feelings from the fans on the recall?

A very small amount of fans hated the move, which was not surprising considering the season Lazar is having. A recall at some point was an inevitability. Even with the likes of Dillon Dube, Alan Quine, and Kerby Rychel available, the team still went with Lazar. I would think the majority of votes here were from big Dube fans, as he has looked a step ahead in the AHL.

My personal vote went to the “Loved it” selection, as I think that Lazar was very deserving of the nod. His NHL stats may not be appealing at all, but it was very apparent that he needed time to play. He went on waivers, did his time, and has performed well. Whether that translates into success with Calgary remains to be seen, but he should get a chance to play.

The final two options complement each other, as they essentially apply to the same principle. You either are indifferent to the move, or you think he won’t play which makes you inherently indifferent to the decision. The move in general is pretty low risk-high reward situation, as once Neal returns Lazar will return to Stockton. If he plays, he most likely carves out a limited amount of playing time on the fourth line. If he shows up and plays lights out, then fantastic. All in all, fans do not appear fazed by the decision to recall Lazar one way or another.

Want to be a part of the conversation next time around? Follow us on Twitter @wincolumnblog and be sure to keep a look out for our polls throughout the week.

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