The turning point for Ristolainen was on Nov. 7. On that day, Flyers coach John Tortorella publicly called out Ristolainen for his lack of effort. And at this point, the Flyers season for Risto was just four games old as he began the year on the injured reserve. He was ended up being benched as well.
"“He just hasn’t met expectations. He needs to play better. I’m not going to go that much deeper into it, but I don’t think he’s played well enough,” Tortorella said about Ristolainen at the time. “He’s going to get another crack at it. But in everything about his game, I think he needs to be better.”"
He was back in against the Blues where he logged 16:16 minutes, had three hits, and three blocks. He was also a +2. Going into that game, he was a -4. He finished the season, overall, a -4. For a team that missed the playoffs and finished in seventh place, that’s not bad.
Ristolainen logged around 19 minutes of ice time. His 24 takeaways were third most on defenders; one less than Tony DeAngelo and 10 less than Provorov. However, he was also third on the team with 43 giveaways. He was third on the team with 142 blocked shots and hits with 162.
Provorov won the team’s Barry Ashbee Award for best defender and Owen Tippett won the Pelle Lindbergh Award for most improved player. You could easily have made a case for Ristolainen for winning one or even both.
He definitely bought into what Tortorella was selling. The way he played showed it. If he can continue this next season, the team will be better for it.
And for that, I want to apologize to Ristolainen for openly rooting for the team to get rid of him.