It’s not like Tobias Rieder didn’t have a resume when he signed with the Edmonton Oilers at the start of the 2018-19 season. In fact, everything seemed to point to the fact that he was a solid NHL player with a history of NHL success. Not elite by any means, but solid. His reputation was that he was a versatile forward who could play any forward position.
In three seasons with the Arizona Coyotes (from 2014-2017), he had scored 21 points, 37 points, and 34 points with a nice mix of goals (43) and assists (49) over those seasons. Then, in the 2017-18 season with the Los Angeles Kings, he had similar numbers with 12 goals, 13 assists, and 25 points. In addition, he’d averaged almost 78 games per season – so it wasn’t as if he was a visitor to the press box during those seasons. Indeed, he was a contributing member of the team.
Then came the fateful 2018-19 Oilers’ season. His numbers were horrible – not just for him but for any NHL player: in 67 games, he scored zero – nada – goals and 11 assists. So, although he had 92 shots on net, he had nothing in terms of goals. It wasn’t a surprise that the Oilers didn’t qualify him, especially considering a qualifying offer would have cost the team $2 million against its salary cap.
Until the Calgary Flames came along, the 26-year-old German was looking to return to Europe to try to resurrect his career. However, on September 4, Rieder signed a PTO with the Flames. Although there was a chance he would remain in the NHL, he still had to make the team.
The Beginning of Rieder’s Season
In late September, after he had evidently shown the team enough to warrant it, Rieder signed a one-season, two-way contract with the Flames. His professional tryout agreement had turned into a contract as a depth forward who would compete with other skaters for playing time in the Flames’ bottom six.
But, during October Rieder started slowly with his new team. He had just one goal in 15 games. That goal (and his first Flames’ point) came in a loss to the Washington Capitals when the game had already been decided on October 23. At the end of October, after being a healthy scratch for four games, he was placed on waivers and was sent to the Flames’ AHL affiliate in Stockton.
Things Begin to Change for Rieder
After a short time in the AHL, Rieder was recalled by the Flames to add depth for a four-game road trip. Although he had 20 shots on goal and a minus-6 rating so far, he was a productive penalty killer who had helped the Flames reach an 85.5 percent penalty-killing success rate, which was good for seventh in the league. Rieder wasn’t an offensive option, but he was useful for his penalty-killing.
On December 6, after teammate Johnny Gaudreau had taken a penalty, during that penalty kill Derek Ryan sprung Rieder for the Flames’ go-ahead goal. It was Rieder’s 400th career game and the team beat the Buffalo Sabres 4-3. On December 8, he scored his first assist of the season in a 4-3 win over the Kings. That goal was the Flames first from its fourth line all season and gave Rieder points in consecutive games, although only three points overall in 23 games.
On December 10, Rieder scored another assist in the team’s 5-4 overtime win over the Colorado Avalanche. Rieder, now playing center on a fourth-line, had points in three straight games. Still, he had only four points in 23 games for the season.
December 13, he scored an assist in a 4-2 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs, who had come into the Flames game on a bit of a hot streak. Rieder’s production had continued with the assist on Michael Frolik’s go-ahead goal, and he now had a goal and three assists in his last five games.
Suddenly, new Flames’ interim head coach Geoff Ward started to show a willingness to spread the minutes around the lineup, and Rieder benefited. And, in a game against the Coyotes, he set a season’s high in ice time with 15:38.
On December 18, Rieder scored an assist in a 4-1 loss to the Penguins. Again, he played center with Sam Bennett and Michael Frolik as his wingers. On December 22, he scored another assist in Sunday’s 5-1 win over the Stars. And, that’s where he stands for the season.
Where Is Rieder Now?
Although Rieder is finally producing, he’s far from having a really productive season. Still, after barely making any impact during the first part of the season, Rieder’s goal and five assists in nine December games are huge improvements. He’d only scored one goal in his first 20 games.
Perhaps Rieder won’t produce offensively over the season, but under new coach Ward he’s been given a larger role and he’s being successful. Suddenly the Flames are getting some of his salary back.
I love feel-good stories, and it would be a great feel-good story if Rieder found some of his former mojo. It would also benefit the Flames.
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