A Look at Alexander Frolov's Declining Value and Production
He's coming off a season that saw his production (raw numbers: goals, points) decline for the third consecutive year, while his per-game averages were among the worst of his career. The low point of his season was probably in mid-October when Los Angeles Kings head coach Terry Murray publicly criticized him and made him a healthy scratch against the Dallas Stars, saying to Rich Hammond at the time: "I haven't been happy with Fro's game for several games. The game the other night is the straw that broke the camel's back, in my opinion. The turnovers, the careless play... It has to be better, and you have to come out with that high level of intensity, with smart work, hard work, and you've got to love the game. You've got to love the game in order to be a player. The talent is there, but it always is the work that brings out talent. And I need more."
Even with all of that, his resume is probably the best one remaining on the free agent market (well, not counting Ilya Kovalchuk). The Rangers were willing to take a swing for the fences, signing the young player. But what will they be getting, and what was behind Frolov's disappointing 2009-10 campaign?
One of the biggest reasons that's been cited for Frolov's production is the fact he went from being a top-six forward to a third-line forward this year, playing most of his even-strength shifts on a line with Michael Handzus and Wayne Simmonds. But while his role and linemates changed (he spent quite a bit more time the previous year with Anze Kopitar, for example) he was still in a position where he started the majority of his shifts in the offensive zone, and actually had an increase in such starts from the previous year. Nearly 53 percent of his five-on-five zone starts this year were in the offensive zone, a small jump from the 51 percent he had the previous year (when he scored 32 goals).
Perhaps the biggest culprit for his decline in production this season was a sudden drop in power play time (he was actually better this season in even strength situations ... perhaps due to the increased zone starts in the offensive end of the ice). After logging over 250 minutes on the man advantage the previous two seasons, he was on the ice for just under 185 power play minutes this year, resulting in just five power play goals (down from the 12 he had during the '08-09 season).
We know he's talented, and we know he can produce at a more-than-respectable level for a top-six winger. But the biggest question surrounding him is going to be the one of motivation and effort that Murray brought up earlier this season during his public take-down; when he went as far as to point out that previous coaches and general managers had the same discussions with the now 28-year-old winger.
Is he worth the gamble for the Rangers? Well, given the mediocre state of their offense the past couple of seasons, he certainly can't hurt. Even if it's just for the sheer entertainment value of watching he and John Tortorella working with one another.
(Zone start stats via Behind The Net)