Although Heinen was a constant source of criticism among many Bruins fans this season, trading him for Ritchie didn’t seem like the move fans were looking for.
One thing that didn’t make the move easier to swallow was the failed Brett Ritchie (Nick’s older brother) experiment from the beginning of the season. Brett, who was signed to a one-year deal that pays him $1 million, started out OK but then struggled to crack the Bruins lineup in the first half of the season.
He ended up posting just 6 points in 27 games before being demoted to the AHL.
According to Don Sweeney, the Nick Ritchie deal was made to address things like interior play, size/strength, play in front of the net, and winning puck battles.
Many Bruins fans think these are areas that cost the B’s against the Blues in the Cup Final last year, and were still plaguing them up until the Ritchie move was made.
An additional factor that may have also contributed to this deal being made was that moving Heinen for Ritchie would free up about $1.3 million in cap space and that Ritchie is signed through the 2020-2021 season.
Unfortunately, all NHL action was suspended on March 12, so we only really got a short glimpse of Ritchie in a Bruins uniform.
While it’s debatable whether or not this brief spell is long enough to evaluate his value in a Bruins uniform, we can review his performance to date and discuss whether or not his game has filled in that void in the way Sweeney had hoped.
Although Ritchie wasn’t necessarily brought in for his offensive production, fans certainly were hoping that he’d be at least able to match Heinen’s output.
Since his arrival in Boston, Ritchie has put up a goal and an assist in 7 contests, good for approximately .29 PPG.
Heinen had 22 points in 58 games, or .38 PPG; he has also scored 3 times and added an assist in 9 games since joining the Ducks.
While it would be easy to suggest that the Bruins lost this deal from an offensive point of view, Ritchie may just need more opportunities to build chemistry with his new teammates.
After that, the offensive numbers could balance out between the two players.
Size / Strength / Aggression
There is no denying that Nick Ritchie is a larger man than Danton Heinen, However, as we have seen in the past with Nick’s brother Brett and players like Jimmy Hayes, just because you have the size, doesn’t mean you’re necessarily going to use it.
Nick Ritchie, happily for many fans, has not been shy about throwing his body around since being acquired.
In his first 7 games as a Bruin, he has led the team in hits over that time with 23. He also got in one fight, a scrap with the Panthers’ Riley Stillman.
Interior Play / Net-front Play / Puck Battles
While offense, size, and aggression may be easily observable, the other intangibles that Sweeney had hoped that Ritchie would bring to the Bruins are not.
One way to measure Ritchie’s “interior play” or “puck battles” would be possession metrics, and so far they haven’t been great. While on the ice, Ritchie and his line mates have been outshot (65-68), out-chanced, and ultimately out-scored (2-4) despite Ritchie having a 69 oZS% (Offensive Zone Start %).
From the naked eye, Ritchie does not seem to be making much of an impact in front of the opponent’s net yet either, as his total number of shots from that area is low and his one goal came from the high slot.
If Nick Ritchie got traded to any other team at the deadline, you probably wouldn’t have given the move a second thought.
But any minor deal, including this one that sent Ritchie to the Bruins for Heinen, is a big deal for Bruins fans. Any player added to Boston’s line-up is probably faced with unrealistic hopes and dreams, and Ritchie falls into this category.
Fans expecting Ritchie to come in a make a huge impact in Boston would probably be disappointed even if he plays up to his full potential. Ritchie as a third/fourth liner in Boston has been just that: a guy who plays 12 (somewhat sheltered) minutes a game in the middle/bottom six.
Ritchie has delivered physically and has the potential to be better than what he’s shown so far.
Is he going to step into the top 6 and fill the score sheet every night? No.
Can he bring elements to this team that have been missing at times this season? Yes.
While the Brett Ritchie experiment is over, the Nick Ritchie experiment has just begun. He should be given a chance to become a regular and find his groove when the NHL resumes.
How would you rate Nick Ritchie’s performance so far?
This poll is closed
Better than expected