Michael Frolik’s third season with the Flames looks like it’ll end up being his least productive. Part of that is due to injury but, with eight goals and 19 points in 48 games, his counting numbers are down regardless. That doesn’t mean Frolik is having a poor season, though. In fact, there is plenty to suggest he’s been as effective this season as ever.
On the surface
There’s no doubt Frolik’s numbers are down; after a career high 44 points last season, his current pace is around 32 points over an 82-game campaign. To break it down even further, Frolik’s five-on-five scoring rates are down substantially from his first two seasons in Calgary.
Frolik’s relative lack of production has led some to wondering whether taking him off the team’s second line is the right call. After all, the 3M line hasn’t made as much of an offensive impact as it did last year, specifically when talking about Frolik and Mikael Backlund.
I’m not as much a proponent of doing that, mainly because I don’t think Frolik is having a bad season by any stretch. While I do think he’s struggled the last four or five games, an underlying look at Frolik’s season suggests he’s been the same reliable and effective two-way forward we’ve come to know.
Strictly using goals, assists, and points is rarely the most representative way to evaluate a player’s offensive impact. Adding context to the conversation is important, and that’s where things like scoring chances and shooting percentage factor in. A look at those two metrics in Frolik’s case really starts to paint a clearer picture of his season.
What really jumps off the page is the fact Frolik is generating more high danger scoring chances at five-on five this season than his first two years with the Flames, per Natural Stat Trick. Frolik’s abysmal individual shooting percentage, however, has more than canceled out his impressive increase in quality chances.
In virtually every situation, a shooting percentage drop like Frolik has seen this season is due to one thing: bad luck. We’re not talking about a small variance here, either; Frolik has dropped by almost three full percentage points year over year, while it’s almost a five percent drop from two seasons ago. Frolik didn’t suddenly forget how to finish, but when the puck decides not to go in, there’s not much a player can do about it.
Even more out of Frolik’s control are his on-ice percentages, which have dropped at similar rates as his individual numbers.
We’re talking about a two-headed monster for Frolik. Not only is he relatively snakebitten with high danger chances on his stick, but the puck isn’t going in for anyone at even an average rate when he’s on the ice. This goes a long way in explaining Frolik’s individual struggles along with the relative offensive woes of his line.
The good news is this isn’t a permanent problem. It’s impossible to predict when Frolik’s percentages will return to the norm, but it’s not out of the question to suggest he might be due for an offensive outburst before the end of the season. Frolik is generating quality chances at a high rate with unsustainably low shooting totals, so a correction is almost certainly in the cards at some point.
In the meantime, Frolik remains one of the most reliable forwards on the team. Even with down offensive numbers, the 3M line continues to take on the team’s toughest matchups with a great deal of success. Frolik has been a top three possession player for Calgary in his first two seasons with the team and nothing has changed in that regard this year.
Frolik’s underlying numbers suggest he’s having one of the strongest seasons of his career. Unfortunately, thanks to things largely out of his control, that’s not being reflected in his counting numbers. That’s why I think any criticism needs to be tempered, because by and large Frolik is having a really strong season.
If Frolik continues generating offensive chances and zone time like he has this season, there’s a good chance we start to see his numbers follow suit. Even if that doesn’t happen, there’s enough evidence to suggest Frolik is still one of the most effective forwards on the Flames. Yes, his offensive numbers are down, but one thing is clear for me: Frolik remains as important to Calgary’s success as ever.