Although the Flames have a lot of needs at the moment, they also don’t have a lot of assets with which to barter heading into the deadline. Forget the buyers versus sellers debate for now, because Calgary doesn’t fit neatly into either category – the truth is it’s difficult for the team to do either given their position in the standings and bevy of injuries.
The Fickle Five Percent
That said, the one target who may be a good fit right now is the Hawks Michael Frolik. I mentioned in a bit about Mikael Backlund that even established forwards can see their stocks falls due to extended cold streaks.
Frolik is a recent exmaple.
A former 10th overall pick of the Florida Panther, Frolik made the NHL straight from junior as a 20-year old a put up 21g-24a-45 points in his rookie year back in 08-09. Only Horton, Weiss, Stillman and Booth scored as much or more than Frolik for the Panthers that year. The kid managed his 21 goals on 158 shots for a 13.3 shooting percentage. Keep that number in mind.
He matched his rookie output in his sophomore season, scoring 21-22-43. He scored 21 again despite increasing his shot volume to 219 from 158. His resultant shooting percentage was only 9.6% the second time around.
For whatever reason, it has continued to fall ever since. Frolik scored 55 goals in just 97 games in junior, but pucks have stopped going in for the guy at the pro level. In his third season, Frolik scored just eight goals on 158 shots for Florida (5.1%) before being moved to Chicago later in the year. Incredibly, his SH% slid into Cory Sarich territory as a Blackhawk (3.2%) that season and has hovered around 5% over another 100 shots this year.
So over his first two seasons, Frolik scored 42 goals on 377 shots for a combined SH% of 11.1. Since then, he’s gathered a mere 16 goals over his last 351 shots on net (4.6%). Th Sarich comparison was only partly in jest – he has a 2.5% career shooting average, but is at 5% over the last two years.
So either Frolik has the same shooting accuracy as a defensive defenseman who takes shots from 60-feet out and has a total of 20 goals over the course of his entire career, or this is just an extended rough patch.
That seems completely counter-intuitive because 350 shots sounds like a lot. It really isn’t though, as discussed in this Driving Play post – it can actually take several thousand shots to truly separate luck from skill.
If you don’t go for the abstract math stuff, consider that Frolik was a 20+ goal scorer over his first 350+ shots in the league – so one has to wonder which "segment" of shots is more indicative of the player’s true skill: if Frolik is really a 5% SH% forward, then he really is of limited utility. If he’s closer to 10-11%, though, then he’s a 23-year old 20+ goal man getting run down by bad luck.
Check Under the Hood
The luck stuff is only part of the reason Frolik would be a worthwhile gamble for Calgary. "Buy low" is a good strategy for both players and stocks, but it makes sense to look at the fundamentals as well. Always check under the hood, no matter how good the deal seems, as it were.
The news i good here as well. Frolik has been a positive possession player since he broke into the league. In Florida he had the third best corsi rate on the team in his rookie season behind David Booth and Stephen Weiss. He was second behind only Booth as a sophomore and was amongst the team leaders again the next season before before being dealt to Chicago.
As a Blackhawk, Frolik has been buried by Quenneville in a defense first role, which is why his shot rate has sunk this year. Amongst regular Chicago forwards, only Dave Bolland, Jonathan Toews and Viktor Stalberg have faced tougher competition in aggregate. In addition, only Bolland has a tougher zone start ratio (40.9%). Even in this circumstances, his possession rate is better than even (_1.59/60).
Those circumstances have acted to further suppress Frolik’s output, as has an on-ice shooting percentage of 5.84% (a team low). No regular NHLer is bad enough to deserve that sort of SH%, so again…Frolik is rolling snake-eyes, but this time it’s in terms of both the bounces and his coach’s decision making.
Quenneville in only human though, so he can’t escape the reality that pucks don’t seem to go in when Frolik is on the ice. As mentioned, perceptions of forwards inevitably sink during an extended cold streak. Even if it has a lot to do with stuff outside of their control.
A Good Fit
Finally, the reason this trade is possible is the Flames actually have a few expendable pieces that might be of use to Chicago. Cory Sarich and Scott Hannan should both be made available by the Flames at the deadline since they are each pending UFA’s and probably not part of the team’s plans past this year. The Hawks have struggled a great deal with their defensive play and blueline depth this season, so either one of Sarich or Hannan could be useful for them. And because Frolik has seemingly fallen out of favor with the organization, they may be looking to ditch his contract which costs 2.33M in cap space and runs until 2014.
This way, the Hawks get something they need in exchange for an asset they really don’t want any more. The Flames, in contrast, get a young guy who is already a veteran, can move the play north and has a lot of upside if his percentages ever emerge from the dark side of the moon.