There’s no denying the obvious. Nick Ritchie has clearly been the worst Toronto Maple Leafs offseason signing thus far.
However, there’s hope for Nick Ritchie and the Toronto Maple Leafs, as this time-off could be the best thing that’s ever happened to him.
When you join a new team, especially a team that you idolize, it’s hard. You’d hope that you’d jump into the line-up easily and score a bunch of goals be the first-star of every game, but it doesn’t work like that. If you’re John Tavares, it does, but if you’re Nick Ritchie, it doesn’t.
In 29 games, Ritchie has one goal and eight points. He was given a huge opportunity to play alongside Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner every night and still couldn’t produce, which was devastating to see. Ritchie does have a team-low 4.32% on-ice shooting percentage, but he is also the only Leafs regular with a below 50% expected-goals rating (though to be fair, it’s only half a percentage point from even). (naturalstattrick.com).
At 6-foot-3, 235 pounds, many expected the big-body left-winger to drive the net, grab the puck in the corners and be a physical presence on a line that was strictly skill. With that huge frame, you’d think that he’d be able man-handle defenseman in front of the net and score a few off his shin-pads, but instead, he’s had virtually zero offensive production.
Time-Off Will Help Nick Ritchie Recharge
Ritchie has an offensive side to his game. He scored 15 goals in 56 games last year, which was a career-high, but typically averages 14-goals in a regular 82-game schedule (stats: hockeydb.com).
At this point of the year, Ritchie is on-pace for three goals for the season. With a contract worth $2.5M AAV, that’s $833K per goal, which is completely unacceptable.
However, as I mentioned before, Ritchie was some pop in his game. He was a 30-goal scorer in junior and has shown some offense at the NHL-level.
After joining the Leafs and getting into a goal-scoring slump to start his season, that pressure continued to pile up. He couldn’t score no matter how hard he tried. However, now that the team has been on a 10-day break, it’s given Ritchie time to regroup.
Nobody is thinking about Ritchie’s slump anymore because it feels like a brand-new season when things get cooking again. By taking a sabbatical, it may refresh Ritchie’s mind and get him back onto the score-sheet.
Once the Toronto Maple Leafs get playing again, expect Ritchie’s game to improve, as the pressure is completely off him now and he can just play freely.