Sunday Census: David Rittich’s workload and how to best use Michael Frolik

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!

Finally, the Flames seem to have found a goaltender that actually inspires confidence in the team. David Rittich hasn’t just followed up on an excellent campaign last year, but he’s been the busiest goaltender in the entire NHL so far this season. He’s making a case for being one of the most reliable starting goalies in the league, which is far better than what anyone expected when the Flames brought him over from Europe a few seasons ago.

Teams nowadays are moving towards having a 1A/1B goalie tandem instead of the starter/backup setup that has been most commonly used. The Flames went into this season with the expectations of following the new tandem split, but have definitely fallen into the starter/backup category through the first quarter of the season. Rittich has started 17 games to Cam Talbot‘s five; he’s faced the most shots, made the most saves, and played the most minutes in the NHL. Big Save Dave’s been a starter through and through.

The question now is: how many games should Rittich start this season? Most poll respondents felt that 55 games for Rittich and 27 for Talbot was the most ideal split. Currently, Rittich is trending towards playing 63 games for the team, so if he does end up settling in around the 55 mark, the Flames will have to play Talbot with much higher frequency in the last 75% of the season.

Rittich has better numbers than Talbot all around, but Talbot has put forward a few excellent starts for the Flames. He hasn’t gotten much scoring help in any of his starts, but if he keeps playing the way he has the last few starts, the Flames can feel confident giving Rittich a few more nights off. If this team does make it to the playoffs, it’ll be important to have both goalies going and both goalies fresh. It’s reasonable to expect the split of goalie starts to start creeping back towards 50/50.

Michael Frolik has turned into a perplexing player for the Flames. He was once one of the most reliable two-way wingers in the game, and his work alongside Mikael Backlund and Matthew Tkachuk on the original 3M line was superb. However, Bill Peters, ever since he took over as head coach, has seemed to have issues with keeping Frolik in one spot, especially in the top-six.

For the past couple seasons, Frolik has bounced around the lineup and has even been healthy scratched a handful of times. He’s on a decently expensive expiring contract and it doesn’t look like the Flames are going to bring him back, so it’s important for them to consider game planning for next season when Frolik isn’t around.

This is likely why Andrew Mangiapane has been given such a long look on the 3M line. He’s a dynamic offensive player who plays strong despite his small frame, and has had excellent results on the 3M line so far. Unfortunately, Frolik just hasn’t had the same level of success in the bottom-six. Most poll respondents feel that the best option for Frolik is to play on another team, but in all honesty, if there was a market for Frolik the Flames would have probably acted on it already.

It doesn’t seem realistic at this point to expect Frolik to get traded, and it’s prudent to try out younger players on 3M. Frolik is still a useful player. He has the ability to play a strong defensive game and score every once in a while, two things that on paper look like an excellent complement to Milan Lucic.

If I were the coach, I’d make sure Lucic and Frolik were wingers on the same line. Frolik has the ability to cover for Lucic’s deficiencies in the bottom-six, and can try to help convert Lucic’s physical play into more offensive chances.

It’ll be interesting to see how Frolik is handled going forward, as he’s coming off being healthy scratched for two straight games last week.


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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