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FlamesNation player evaluation: Michael Frolik

In a lot of ways, Michael Frolik had a strong 2018-19 season for the Calgary Flames. In a few other ways, though, he had some challenges – and those challenges may send him packing for another city during the off-season.

2018-19 season summary

Frolik’s season was pretty all over the place. He played on three different lines, missed a good chunk of the year due to injury, and also was healthy scratched twice. The off-ice chatter about a potential mid-season trade unfortunately overshadowed some really strong on-ice performances.

Games played Goals Assists Points TOI/GP 5v5 CF% 5v5 CF% rel OZS% PDO
65 16 18 34 13:22 56.27 +2.61 55.73 1.019

The product of the Czech Republic missed 17 games this past season: 15 of them were due to a high ankle sprain suffered late in the fall, while he was healthy scratched once in October and once shortly after his return to the lineup from his injury in December.

In addition to his scratching, Frolik’s agent Allan Walsh tweeted displeasure in late December (and later in the season) regarding how Frolik was being used by Flames head coach Bill Peters. Once a stalwart of the vaunted “3M” shutdown line alongside Mikael Backlund and Matthew Tkachuk, Frolik bounced around a ton early in the season; as the coaching staff tried to get Austin Czarnik and James Neal going at various times, Frolik was bumped to the third line, fourth line and the press box.

The weird thing is that there really wasn’t much of a performance-based reason to drop Frolik off the proverbial cliff – he looked sluggish prior to his scratches in October and December, but for the most part his numbers were rock-solid despite not getting as much ice time as he had in the past. He saw very little power play time and was gradually de-emphasized on the penalty kill during the season in favour of Derek Ryan, Mark Jankowski, Garnet Hathaway and Elias Lindholm. (Backlund also received less PK time, but he remained prominent at even strength.)

Across the board, Frolik kept the puck moving in the right direction when he was on the ice. He had the second-best Corsi For percentage of any Flames forward – only Tkachuk was better. Offensively, Frolik was across the board one of the more productive players per 60 minutes: second or third among regular forwards in shots, shot attempts and scoring chances, while sitting fifth in high danger chance generation. He was sharp at shot and shot attempt suppression – second among regular forwards – but he tended to bleed scoring chances and high danger chances against, sitting a rather ordinary eighth among forwards.

If you’re thinking that the Flames needed to build for the future – and get Neal going due to his lengthy contract and Czarnik going due to his youth – then using Frolik further down the rotation and potentially having him boost a bottom six line makes a good deal of sense. That said, it’s also very much a case of trying to fix what wasn’t broken: the 3M line was one of the better two-way lines in the game and Tkachuk’s growth helped make that trio one of the more dangerous second lines as well.

For whatever reason, that wasn’t good enough to keep him in the top six until after Neal and Czarnik fizzled in his old spot and he was cemented into the top six out of necessity.

Compared to last season

Across the board, Frolik’s numbers were pretty much unchanged from the prior season. He played against roughly the same level of opposition and was used in roughly the same situations – the 3M line was given more frequent offensive zone starts than in the past. His underlying numbers didn’t really change very much either.

Like Backlund, Frolik’s shot generation rates dipped a slight bit but his suppression was improved – resulting in lower event shifts than in prior seasons. Beyond that, he performed essentially as he has since arriving in Calgary.

What about next season?

Let’s get this out of the way: I fully expect Frolik and his $4.3 million cap hit to be traded during the summer. He was almost traded prior to the trade deadline and the factors that led the Flames to explore trade talks haven’t changed.

What are those factors? There’s the on-ice and the off-ice.

  • On-ice: Frolik is a veteran right winger whose placement in the top six is blocking opportunities for the Flames to try out the likes of Sam Bennett, Andrew Mangiapane and Dillon Dube in the top six. He’s good, but the Flames need to figure out how to help their youngsters progress and Frolik’s presence complicates that. Peters also seems to have a preference for having shot balance on his lines as well as multiple players that can take face-offs, so Frolik’s status as a lefty who plays the right side and doesn’t take a lot of draws is challenging.
  • Off-ice: Frolik is a relatively expensive veteran entering the final year of his contract who can potentially be replaced in the top six by younger, cheaper players – which in turn would help create cap space to use in other areas. In addition, the Twitter chatter from Frolik’s agent about his role creates a distraction that the Flames would be happier without.

If Frolik remains in Calgary, he’ll likely be handled similarly to how the Flames handled him this past season. Given the complications that created, he probably won’t be back.

2018-19 player evaluations

#4 Rasmus Andersson | #5 Mark Giordano | #7 TJ Brodie | #8 Juuso Valimaki | #10 Derek Ryan | #11 Mikael Backlund | #13 Johnny Gaudreau | #18 James Neal | #19 Matthew Tkachuk | #21 Garnet Hathaway | #23 Sean Monahan | #24 Travis Hamonic | #27 Austin Czarnik | #28 Elias Lindholm | #33 David Rittich | #41 Mike Smith | #55 Noah Hanifin | #58 Oliver Kylington

  • BendingCorners

    It makes sense to trade Frolik, but if the goal is to get more RHS offense in the top-six, none of Mangiapane, Bennett and Dube qualify. Neither would Zucker for that matter.
    I do expect a trade, but hopefully not just for the sake of making one.

    • oilcanboyd

      Agreed. If you trade Frolik just to clear cap space, then who will replace him? Nobody on the roster. A UFA who will command more salary and may pan out like Neal? A trade of prospects for a veteran top 6?

  • Jimmyhaggis

    Not sure trading him makes sense, he plays a significant role, Flames have bigger fish to fry right now, to get bigger and tougher. We have at least 4 smallish guys, Johnny, Mangie, Ryan and Czarnik, look at the teams that are still around, not many small guys.
    Playoff teams are big, fast and tough, Flames are small, fast and soft.

    • withachance

      Fair point, but you can’t just say a team is bad because of small players… Johnny Ryan and Mangi were pretty good throughout the season. If the Flames got players like Point, Marner for free, you’d be insane to say that they wouldn’t improve any team in the league

      • Jimmyhaggis

        Not saying they’re bad, they will get you into the playoffs, but they can’t handle the endless physical play in the playoffs, we all know the refs let a lot more go.

    • BendingCorners

      You don’t get bigger by not trading anybody, unless you wait for their contracts to expire and draft giants and wait five years. Assuming the goal is near-term improvement, trading is the only option. Even signing undrafted Europeans doesn’t help unless you create cap space by trading somebody.

  • The Red Knight

    Frolik was pretty decent and has been for the team since he came, another player that’s doesn’t hit enough for me but atleast he works his butt off pretty every shift .shutting Down other teams top players, he should have some decent value,his worlds stats should add abit more too, tough call , if there’s another plan to replace him or hopefully upgrade another top 6 Rw then now might be the perfect time to get full value for him.

  • I 🖤 WW

    Frolik’s Flames shelf life is past due. His expiry date has expired. The riff including his agent, BP, and BT went to far. He is not a good enough player for coaching and management to look the other way after such. Frolik is also holding up the progression of players like Dube, Mango, and even Bennett, all of which have a higher offensive ceiling. Time to let Frolik go

  • Franko J

    Frolik is the only free agent that has panned out for Treliving. Great value and excellent signing at the time. Real good asset that Treliving has to work with come draft day. I don’t expect him back. Hopefully BT can obtain a few picks and or a couple prospects that can develop into contributors to the team down the road.

    • freethe flames

      He worked out because he was the right side of 30 and was a proven NHLer when he was signed. My personal opinion would be not to sign any UFA’s to contracts that take them past 32. After 32 sign them for 1 year contracts. You can sign your own guys a little longer b/c you really know what they bring and where they are but my ruke then would 34 as my number. There will always be exceptions to the rule but that would be my starting point. I have been saying this for years.

      • Puck Head

        @ftf….what you’re saying makes sense but it will also mean that nobody decent over 32 will sign here. Hmmm….on second thought maybe that’s a good thing as it will save BT from himself. He hasn’t exactly knocked these acquisitions out of the part so far.

        • freethe flames

          That would be a risk I would be willing to take. Take a look at the UFA’s this year; who many of those guys over 32 would you want long term. I have not looked but very few I would gather.

      • freethe flames

        Let’s not overlly romanticize England’s term here; he was 5/6 defenceman being paid like a top 4 at the time. His biggest contribution was being a threat and holding to Canucks players; note despite the myth he did not really fight them at the same time.

        Ryan is almost part of that homegrown idea I talk about b/c of his relationship with BP. BP knew what he was getting so he would fit into my 34 year old idea.

  • Porcupine at a balloon party

    I’m kind of confused by this. “Frolik is holding up production of ‘Bennett, mangiapanne, Dube’, but it’s out of favor because he’s not a centre or right shot.” Then the comments section of flooding with “need to get bigger and stronger” which move of those guys really are (Bennett plays tough, but not really a top six option to be honest). Then for most part everyone says we need a *real* top 6 rhs RW. Which again, is none of they players above. Don’t think Zucker is that option either tbh.

    I’m all for trading frolik on basis of expiring contract as well as the distraction factor. Can see the argument he’s taking a spot of younger guy, but not in top 6. No disrespect to Mang Bennett or Dube, but they should not in anyway be counted on as top 6 options next year. Maybe give them opportunity for a few shifts and maybe a few games to grow into the position (or out of necessity due to injury if they playing well enough).

    For next year though, we need someone that can fit right into top 6 RW. Someone not over age of 30 that is ready to take a nose dive in their career (I’m looking at you Brouwer and Neal). I don’t care about them being a ‘locker room guy’ or what they’ve done recently in playoffs (way too small of sample sizes and too high of variation…. Ie, see Brouwer and Neal). If they are big, strong and mean… Great!! But they need a RW that can keep up with rest of our top 6. Needs to be able to put up points, and not afraid to go to dirty areas (corners/boards for puck retrieval and front of net for garbage).

      • Porcupine at a balloon party

        Not sure if you were suggesting I meant that in my post. I did not. Was referring to the article stating Peter’s wants extra centre options on wings and the fact he’s a left shot on RW. Which again I’ll state, none of those guys are. Not sure what Dube will be tough. Probably a wing I would assume based on usage. But maybe they want to groom for centre?? Tough to say, way too early

  • JarkMankowski

    Frolik’s had a pretty good tenure with the Flames – one of our better UFA signings in recent years. I wouldn’t mind if we just kept him around because our RW depth is so shallow. On the other hand, if he doesn’t want to re-sign with Calgary then what choice do you have and he’s nearing an age where a decline in play tends to happen so there’s that to factor in as well.

  • Luter 1

    His value with his play at the Worlds is high, he is on an expiring contract and has feuded with management. No way he stays and his style of play (soft) does not lend well to improving this team. Trade or high draft pick.

  • Jobu

    “If you dont want to be a part of winning here then we don’t want anything to do with that”

    Jobu believes that Tkachuk said at the beginning of the year. Not sure if it was Frolik or just his agent but those mid season statements aren’t going to get you far. Especially after the flames ended up 1st in the west in spite of it.

    Jobu likes Frolik though. Always has. Jobu just doesn’t think he’s worth keeping compared to what we would get for him in a deal.

    • Puck Head

      I always thought he was decent and had some great games. I think I’ve accepted the idea that he will be moved and now I’m curious to see what Tre can get for him. Will he be part of a bigger package to net a top 2 centre or RW, or will it be for a pick and/or prospect. If it’s picks I’m thinking a 2nd and 3rd/4th rounder? The value of first rounders seems to be going up and I can’t see a team giving up a first rounder for him – he’s good but not that good. Thoughts?

      • The Red Knight

        I was thinking the same a 2 and 3 Rd should be doable. But maybe this is where Flames can maybe make a package for a top 6 forward from a team that’s got cap issues, I would expect Neal has to have a much better season next if he has any pride I’m sure he can upgrade better than 12 points ,this could be another opportunity for him so hopefully he works hard in the summer and redeems himself. I’m sure Neal must be capable enough to replace Froliks numbers at the least.

  • freethe flames

    Frolik will likley get us a 2nd rounder and a prospect or a 2nd rounder and a later pick. The $4.3 m in savings should allow us to sign a UFA but BT needs to be careful who/what he signs, I would use my 32 rule, a guy like Connolly who will be 28 so a 4x?($3/$3.5) would be a deal I would consider.

    • HOCKEY83

      If you go relatively cheap…the cap space left right now pretty much takes care of who needs to be resigned for next season…some may just be let go or sent down. Getting rid of frolic would only allow for a bit of a buffer going into the season in cap space so they will probably only take picks for him and move players up from within. I doubt they’ll be signing anyone extra unless they get rid of at least twice as much salary as frolik’s.

    • The Red Knight

      Does Connolly hit ? Fight for his mates ? If not , we have enough players already that don’t hit or stick up for there team mates ! And until this team fights for each other nothing will change, we got the skill it’s the heart that’s missing.

  • SeanCharles

    Hes been a good soldier but his agents comments left a sour taste in my mouth..

    I respect that he is a competitive guy but comments like that make you seem like you are above the team.

    Regardless it is his time to move on, with the youth we have that can play in the bottom 6 we should be looking to offload bigger and/or expiring contracts for players that are over 30, not elite level players and in which we have suitable replacements.

    We need to get better and add to our RHed forward pool that can play in the top 6. Frolik is a LHed 3rd line winger – something we have an abundance of (Bennett, Mangiapane, Dube, Neal, Frolik).