Frolik is Mr. Shutdown
Jets winger morphed game to heed coach's suggestion
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 20/11/2014 (2873 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
No doubt Michael Frolik has heard a lot of compliments over a career that has covered 451 games with three different NHL teams.
But it could be said none of them carried more weight than a recent bouquet tossed his way, courtesy Mark Scheifele earlier this week. Said Scheifele, who had been reunited on a line with the veteran Czech and rookie Adam Lowry:
“He’s unbelievable,” said Scheifele. “I feel like everyone is fighting to play with him. He makes all the best plays, he rarely makes a mistake, he’s great offensively and great defensively.
“He just does everything right and that’s everything you want in a linemate.”
It doesn’t take long for any of Frolik’s teammates to willingly gush about the man. They speak of his work ethic, his consistency, his attention to detail in both ends of the ice and the example he sets every day at the rink.
Funny thing about all this praise for his two-way game… back in the day, back when Frolik was a young prospect from Kladno in the Czech Republic, somebody nicknamed him ‘Baby Jagr.’ It’s a flattering nickname, no doubt, but maybe more than a tad unfair because there is only one No. 68, a player who won’t have to wait long to be enshrined in The Hockey Hall of Fame.
Frolik, as gifted as his offensive skill set is, has never scored more than 21 goals in his NHL career — and he reached that mark in his first two years as a pro after being drafted 10th overall by the Florida Panthers in 2006.
He has 80 goals in his stops in Florida, Chicago and now in Winnipeg, but has essentially recreated himself as one of the league’s more dependable two-way players, a guy that seems to bring out the best in any of his linemates.
In fact, he’s more of a Frank J. Selke-type than a guy who will challenge for the scoring title.
“He’s just such an honest, quick player,” said Jets coach Paul Maurice after Thursday’s game-day skate. “He makes really good defensive reads, so you’re not spending a lot of time chasing it in your own end.
“It’s his consistency shift to shift. He doesn’t take nights off and he doesn’t take shifts off. And there’s a personality part of that. He’s got a smile on his face most days. He enjoys playing the game and there’s not a lot of negative tension on the bench with him. If they have a shift that doesn’t go their way, he’s the ‘let’s-go-get-’em-on-the-next-shift’ kind of player. That brings out the best in his linemates.”
The transformation of Frolik’s game essentially began four years ago after the Panthers traded him to the Blackhawks along with Alexander Salak for Hugh Jessiman, Jack Skille and David Pacan (oops).
Seeing all the talent ahead of him on the depth chart and heeding the advice of coach Joel Quenneville, Frolik made himself into a defence-first forward.
“It was from Q (Quenneville),” said Frolik, when asked who first broached the idea of him changing his game. “When I got there there was so much offence I was on the third-fourth line and the message from him during the lockout year was ‘You’re going to be playing the PK and you’re going to be that shut-down guy.’
“(Marcus) Kruger and I worked together on the PK and we had a good run there. That’s something I’ll never forget… we went something like 25 games in the playoffs without giving up a goal.
“You just listen to the coach and what he says. Obviously, you want to play offence. But I’m not a guy who thinks too much about that. I just take the role and do my job.”
Frolik doesn’t offer any magic formula for his compatibility with linemates other than good communication. He also preaches playing the ‘right way’ — making sure he’s responsible in his own end and being judicious in taking offensive chances.
“When I was younger it was just offence, offence,” said Frolik. “But when you get here you need to play a two-way game. I still hope I’m an offensive guy. It’s fun when you score goals and can help the team. But if you play good defence I think you can make your career last a little bit longer. I kind of found that way in Chicago when I played that role because we had so much offence there. I still want to play offence. It’s what I like and what I used to do.
“Hopefully it’s going to come back a little bit, too.”