Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Alex Frolov: Gift Wrapping-Around His Ticket Out?

During the preseason the Rangers looked like they were getting a steal in the Frolov move as he showed good skill and strength in him game along with some chemistry with Marian Gaborik.  Fast forward two months and today’s discussion is not about Frolov contributing consistent scoring or threat as a secondary forward but now that he is on the fourth line and if he might be a candidate to be benched in the near term when the Rangers get their pieces back.  Over his last nine games Frolov has one point and in two of the last three has failed to even see 10 minutes of ice time.  With the improved play of Sean Avery and Erik Christensen over the past few games the other likely scratches when reinforcements (Chris Drury, Vinny Prospal) arrive back it appears that Frolov is now at the top of that press box credentials list.  Let us look back and what the expectations for Frolov were and how his tenure is eerily similar to a combination of  Rangers of just a year ago and wonder if instead of just being out of the lineup he should be out of the organization.

When the Rangers signed Alex Frolov this summer the fans were very excited about the possibilities of adding more scoring depth, especially if he played with Marian Gaborik.  Frolov in his career had scored 20+ goals five times and 30+ on two separate occasions which to a team and fan base that has struggled to see consistent secondary scoring the intrigue was too much to ignore.  What was ignored however was the fact that for each of the last three seasons the production for the now 28 year old Russian winger had declined from a peak of 71 points in the 2006-07 season to 51 points last year.  What was also ignored was that the team he was playing on, the Los Angeles Kings, was pushing for multiple scoring wingers this summer and never looked to bring Frolov back.  I do not know why that was not seen as more of a red flag to all involved as it usually speaks to either an understanding of the declining performance or a locker room issue that a team with a need this player is supposed to fill somewhere else never attempts to keep them in their own ranks.

This scenario is not too dissimilar to the Ales Kotalik debacle of a season ago where Kotalik who was considered not a great player but a consistent 20 goal guy could come in help the PP and provide more balance to the lineup.  The other Ranger player that Frolov has been compared to numerous times this year is Christopher Higgins who was seen as a guy needing a change of scenery to reignite his game as in the three seasons before his final one in Montreal he had scored 20 every year and that was good enough to ignore the fact he only had 12 in his somewhat shortened final campaign there.  Obviously in the Higgins move there were other considerations as the priority, those being the elimination of the Gomez contract and the prospect additions on defense.  The story however is similar as here we have two guys who were thought to bring balance to the lineup and both face planted in their time with the Rangers.  Kotalik would have a hot start, especially on the power play but then his play fell off a cliff and he was eventually scratched.  Higgins would get top line and second line chance after chance much like Frolov this season and for Higgins he would produce six goals and eight assists in 55 games. 

For me Frolov is a combination of these two Rangers disasters as he provides little to nothing defensively like Kotalik and is hitting the net as much as Higgins did, blowing chance after chance that cannot happen for a team that struggles to consistently score.  The time has come for the Rangers to take the course of action they took with Higgins and Kotalik and move on. 

The question then becomes does he have any trade value in the market.  As was pointed out in a twitter conversation between @BlueSeatBlogs and @RangerSmurf someone will take a chance on him finding that lightning in a bottle and regaining his old form, but I would expect for it to be anything of value.  Really if the Rangers could add a third round pick for the course of the Frolov experiment it would have to be considered worth it.  Also if you do move Frolov out it leaves the potential later in the year depending on play and injuries to have a guy like Mats Zuccarello or Dale Weise get a shot to prove what they can do at this level for next season.