To say that Ristolainen has been a divisive figure in this market would be an understatement. Personally, I firmly believe that Ristolainen is not a very good defenseman who is certainly not worth the extension he just received.
There is a significant proportion of this fanbase that refuses to believe the overwhelming stats and advanced metrics supporting the theory that Ristolainen is not very good at the hockey. What continues to boggle the mind is that people refuse to accept the fact that advanced stats and the eye test aren’t mutually exclusive from each other. In this particular case, if you never want to look at a stat ever again in your life, then rely on your eye to tell you that Ristolainen is not very good.
Ristolainen is supposed to be this imposing net front presence, but is he?
Net front presences are supposed to make the goalie’s life easier by blocking or removing the attacker out of the way of the goalie. Drives me all the way up the flipping wall when defenseman continually push and crosscheck their man INTO THE GOALIE! DON”T DO THAT!
The other major issue with Ristolainen is that he cannot skate backwards adequately enough to be an NHL defenseman.
“Puck or man.” It is one of the oldest cliches that hockey coaches have. If you are 6’4” defenseman with a literal 5” long stick, there are few reasons to get owned this badly.
Finally, the most pronounced issue with Ristolainen’s game is how his love for going for the big hit affects the rest of defense.
We’ve all read that “players hate playing against Ristolainen” which is probably true because he is a large, reckless hockey player. I too would hate skating against a very large man who is more interested in hitting me than he is in the puck - you know, that disk shaped thing that is the object of play in the game.
Is Ristolainen an NHL defenseman?
I would even subscribe to the optimistic narrative that once Ryan Ellis and the moon and the stars properly align that Ristolainen could even be a good defenseman if properly utilized. However, he is 27 turning 28 next October when this deal kicks in and will be on the wrong side of 30 mid-way through this deal. Short of something dramatically changing in his play and the way he approaches the game, this deal is going to age poorly.