Photo Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Bad luck, not bad play, to blame for Michael Frolik’s down season

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.

Season G/60 P/60
2015-16 0.87 1.80
2016-17 0.62 1.51
2017-18 0.37 1.30

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.

Digging deeper

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.

Season iHDCF/60 iSH%
2015-16 3.17 8.70
2016-17 2.85 6.67
2017-18 3.44 3.88

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.

Season SH% PDO
2015-16 7.85 982
2016-17 7.28 984
2017-18 5.19 955

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.

Don’t panic

Mikael Backlund, Michael Frolik
Bruce Fedyck-USA TODAY Sports

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.

Season OZS% CF% Rank
2015-16 48.0 51.4 3rd
2016-17 36.9 55.6 2nd
2017-18 44.7 56.6 3rd

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.

  • Bob Hartley

    I’m not worried about Frolik. He’s a good player and will bounce back next year. It’s management I’m worried about. 3 top picks for Hamonic???? Where is the article on that pat?

    • Bob Hartley

      If you are ok with giving up a 1st round pick, 2nd round pick, 2nd round pick for this then ohhhhh kayyyyyyy.
      2017/18- 56gp 1goal 7assists 8points.
      His last 3 seasons including this one he is a combined -26 !!!!!!!

  • Kevin R

    Frolik is what he is & a very good serviceable winger with great chemistry with Backlund. Both should & can be on a 3rd checking line & excel at it, regardless whose on the LW. Time to move Tkachuk with Bennett & Jankowski permanently.

    But I’m sick & tired of going to the Dome & watch this team lose. Sick of it. At this stage with just over 20 games left, urgency should be in every shift because as of now, we are 10th in the conference. Brodie is a shadow of what this kid used to be on the blue line. How does a player like him go from being a top 30 D in this league to yikes. Remember when Brodie played the right side with Gio & were one of the top pairings in the NHL? We even nicknamed them Brodano, they were that good. Now we gave the farm for another RHD in Hamonic, who I am totally fine with how Hamonic has played so far. But now we have another RHD in Hamilton (Lord only knows why he wasn’t on the PP earlier) So now our coach has convinced our GM to spend top currency for aRHD we didn’t need because of shooting side fetishes. I’m just sick about this, we are in a rock & a very hard place & that very hard place is no where near playoffs. Now what? What should have been one of the best built backends in the league, or many thought, is built so wrong & has so many leaks we’re scared to put it in the water. So if we were to reunite Brodano to see if we can get him back to playing at the levels of just a few years ago, that means Hamilton or Hamonic have to play the left side.

    Moral of this rant is that there a lot of other things messed up with this team than just Frolik’s game (or lack of since his injury). I am sick & tired of paying to watch losses at home, Im tired of winter & today feels like Monday even though it’s Tuesday. Hope everyone has a great day!

  • AngryMontanaman

    I was going to Google Frolik then copy and paste some bazaar stat proving the the opposite of everyone else’s opinion to make myself feel better. Istead I will just wait for others to post then criticise them and their opinions because they do not reflect mine.

  • CherryIsSenile

    I completely disagree Pat. Frolik is bad and has had the fortunes of riding the Backlund and Tkachuk coat tails. Last nights 1st goal against has been an all to coomon display at Flames games. Hamonic moves puck to winger on wall, winger on wall loses body position and then gives puck away into slot causing a goal against. This winger was Frolik and i find he is making these mistakes more often than not. If the Flames are going to have somebody who should be a 3rd line winger playing second and making such horrible mistakes and still given ice time, would it not make sense to maybe try Mangianpane or Klimchuk there?

    • Rudy27

      There’s a reason why everyone in Winnipeg was so p**d off when they lost Frolik to Calgary. He’s a strong two way forward that always shows up with a full effort with or without Backlund. And Bennett played with them the first season. Are you suggesting Frolik was riding his coattails too?

  • Squishin

    One problem with this: his shots are not high-quality shots. He also takes a lot of them, so of course his shooting percentage is going to be ridiculously low. I don’t think it’s luck, it’s just a lot of weak shots from bad angles that the goalie can easily save.

  • buts

    Left hand shot playing right wing and he can’t use his backhand to get the puck out of his zone. Is it the system? coaching? or has he lost a step? There are too many players having crappy years again. Frolik is one of them…..I say it’s coaching.

  • The Beej

    Bad luck yes. But Frolik has also made some pretty bad plays that have cost us points.

    1. Passing the puck right in front of our net right at the end of a game.
    2. Missing that empty netter vs the Islanders with 7 seconds left. That doesnt happen Smith gets injured. All he had to do was hold onto the puck. No reason to pad stats.
    3. Could argue a bad turnover cost us points yesterday.

    Mistakes are coming at the worst times. He needs to get straight. You can play a fine game but one bad mistake can cost the game.

  • Just.Visiting

    Frolik is a good serviceable two-way third line winger who has good chemistry with Backlund. The Flames need to prepare Janko, Bennett and Byng for second line minutes if they see themselves getting beyond the first round.

    They also need to look at whether Frolik remains in the top nine or drops to the fourth line with extra PK time and the ability to play up for the last year of his contract. It won’t be long before Mangi and Dube are challenging for his minutes.