Michael Frolik. Source: NHL.com

The Ex-Panther Factor: Michael Frolik

Upcoming games against the Chicago Blackhawks and the Winnipeg Jets bring a few choices available for today’s victim subject, however after watching every Blackhawk game this season which  I always do, the selection hit me like a ton of bricks.  While many of you might have thought that Rostislav Olesz was today’s choice, I decided to go a different direction.  Therefore,  Michael Frolik will be the player that you’ll spend time with for the next few minutes.

Frolik was a first round draft pick of the Florida Panthers in 2006, being selected 10th overall.  This draft year generated such NHL superstars as Jonathan Toews, Eric Staal, and Nicklas Backstrom, with defenceman Erik Johnson being the first overall pick going to the St. Louis Blues.  As with any draft, you never really know what kind of player you’re getting but just for snicks, or to make you grind your teeth,  players drafted after Frolik were, goaltender Jonathan Bernier and forwards Michael Grabner and Claude Giroux.   Didn’t think that would make you too happy.

Frolik a product of Kladno in the Czech Republic had some moderate success as a goal scorer in the Russian league as well as a couple successful years in Rimouski of the QMJHL.  In 2006-2007 he scored 31 goals, and in 2007-2008 he scored 24 goals, giving the Panthers promise that he could be a consistent scoring threat pegged for the second line.

Impressing enough in training camp the 2008-2009 season was kind to Frolik.  He played in 79 games, scoring 21 times with 24 assists for 45 points and was a plus 10.  At that point he was looked at as a player that could be a Panther for years to come as long as he could produce consistently.  The following season, 2009-2010, Frolik pretty much duplicated his efforts playing all 82 games again scoring 21 times, with 22 assists for 43 points.  His defence slipped a bit, and combined with being on a poor team, his plus/minus shrank to -4.  Bigger things were expected of Frolik as he had proved to be able to score at the NHL level, and he seemed to have the potential to be a 30 goal scorer.  If there was a way he could have been surrounded by a better set up man, scoring 30 shouldn’t have been a problem.

The 2011-2012 season was a tough one for the still young and fast skating winger.  He fell out of favor with not only coach Pete DeBoer, but the fans as well.  A very likeable young man, Frolik struggled.  Mightily.  In 52 games for the Panthers he scored only 8 times, and while that was happening people began to wonder, what the problem was.  You can only call someone snakebitten for so long.  He began to show the signs of frustration that plagued many a player here…..initial success only to be followed by the pressure to be not only consistent, but better on a team that had no one to help you become better.  It was a tough situation for the kid, and the time had come where Dale Tallon who was in his first year as the general manager for the Panthers felt that something needed to be done.  As it often happens a struggling player gets a change of scenery to hopefully energize and excite them in hopes of finding their magic.

On February 9th, 2o11 Frolik was traded to the Chicago Blackhawks along with goaltender Alexander Salak for forwards Jack Skille, Hugh Jessiman and David Pacan.  The deal raised a number of eyebrows in both Florida and Chicago, with many wondering if the Panthers give up on Frolik too early, and others in Chicago thinking they had won the deal.  Skille if you recall was the 7th draft pick overall in 2005, and had numerous chances to break into the lineup in Chicago which never panned out.

In 28 games for the Hawks last season Frolik scored three goals and had 6 assists.  Not exactly setting the world on fire while getting to play with the likes of Marian Hossa, Jonathan Toews and the Patricks, Sharp and Kane.  He did however venture into new territory and appeared in the playoffs with the Hawks as they took the Vancouver Canucks to a thirlling seven games before losing in overtime.  Frolik’s best moment of the year, and maybe his career to that point was this penalty shot goal against Vancouver’s Cory Schneider.  I honestly don’t know what’s better, the goal or the call by Blackhawks play by play announcer Pat Foley.

The Hawks felt good enough about his play during the playoffs (2 goals, 3 assists) to reward him with a three year contract over the summer.  With contract in hand and an opportunity for second line minutes, and the chance to stay with a franchise that was gearing up for it’s second Stanley Cup run in three seasons, Frolik was in charge of his destiny.  Unfortunately his streaky scoring continued and as of today, after 45 games Frolik has five goals.  Two of them are empty netters.  In comparison the Blackhawks have called up two players younger than Frolik, Jimmy Hayes and Andrew Shaw, and those two have combined for 9 goals in 18 combined games.  Frolik has gone 16 games now without scoring a goal.  Earlier in the season he went 10 games without finding the back of the net.

What happened?  How could a player surrounded by marginal talent at best score 20 goals two years in a row, find himself on a team blessed with stars and only have 8 goals in 73 games?  To be fair to Frolik, he’s spent a lot of time shuffling between lines, as is coach Joel Quenneville’s habit.  However, whether you’re on the second line or third line with the Hawks, you should be scoring a lot more than this, especially a player with Frolik’s speed and talent.

I give Coach Q a ton of credit and bless his patience with Michael.  To be perfectly honest, I’m surprised that the Hawks haven’t made Frolik a healthy scratch for a game or two to see if he can get out of his funk.  It’s too bad, as he’s a good kid, and seems to play hard.  Although you have to ask yourself does he play smart?  The style of his game may have been good enough in Florida, but in Chicago with a team that is making a championship push, combined with Patrick Kane in a goal drought of his own, Frolik must find his touch.

When the Panthers and Hawks meet on Friday night, watch him. See if you see anything different about his game than what you saw before.  I don’t, and that bothers me.  I’d like to see him do well, not because he’s on the Hawks, but because he’s generally a good kid who deserves to have better results.  Let me know what you see or don’t see.  I’m very curious to know why his career has hit the wall at such a young age.

Thanks for reading.  We welcome your comments and opinions.

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Tags: Andrew Peters Chicago Blackhawks Coach 1 Dale Tallon Florida Panthers Jack Skille Marian Hossa Micheal Frolik

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