I was expecting Michael Frolik to be playing Center last night against the Colorado Avalanche. It was quickly announced during the pregame he’d be returning to the left side, Centered by Bryan Little and Andrew Ladd on the right side. It looked to be a good move by Coach Paul Maurice. Many of the Jets had jumps in their step and played right with the youthful and extremely talented Avalanche club, ultimately losing another heartbreaker in OT. With the unexpected move, I spent much of the night tracking Frolik – doing my best to gauge his performance on the wing versus at center.
There is no better place for me to start this process than with the special teams. Specifically, the penalty kill. The Jets were shorthanded 4 times in the first period alone, with Frolik being prominent on one of the two penalty kill units. Individually Frolik looked quite strong, but more importantly his squad didn’t give up a powerplay goal in the first – or at any other point in the game. He’s also one of the least penalized Jets, with only 12 PIMS to this point in the season. I like the fact that Frolik is never a liability and really steps into any role the Jets need to help stay competitive. Needless to say the Jets as a whole are going to have to stay out of the box if they’re going to have any chance of making the playoffs. You can’t stay perfect on special teams forever. Frolik gets an A+ on the PK.
Furthering that mentality, typically Frolik is one of the most defensively responsible Jets. His +/- on the year is +3. The Jets don’t have a surplus of talent the way that some other teams do. So in order for them to beat those other teams they’re going to have to take care of their own end first. Frolik was noted on multiple back checks to break up plays and was key on at least one highly effective break out, transitioning into a set up into the offensive zone. In the three games since Scheifele went down, the Jets have been outscored 11-5. Frolik himself is sitting at an even 0 +/- in those three games, but did finish as a +1 last night. I’ll grade Frolik’s defensive zone play with an A as well.
From the defensive zone I’ll transition right into offensive zone play. I wondered why Paul Maurice would move Frolik back to the wing so suddenly. The only thing that made sense to me was that offensive production from Michael Frolik, Little and Ladd is far more likely than the Setoguchi, Frolik, and Halischuk line. They just haven’t been able to spark any offensive production. I figured Coach Paul’s mentality must have just been let your best players play with your best players. I thought they looked brilliant. Although it was a low scoring game – I took notice every time this line was on the ice. The notable offensive play for Frolik must have been amidst a line change – as he made a great play to enter the zone while re-adjusting to accept a pass for a one timer. Byfuglien potted the rebound, with Frolik notching the Assist. Although that was the only point for him he made his presence felt. The cycle was working for Frolik’s line all game long and were being put out in key situations. I can’t give a low grade to a line who produced, but we can always ask for more (especially in a loss). I grade offensive zone play with a B.
Frolik did not get much time on the powerplay that I noticed but neither did the team as a whole. Regardless – when they do end up with the extra man, the powerplay has been a dismal for the Jets for all of the last three seasons. Based off of last night’s game I won’t be grading Frolik on the powerplay. Although with the versatility that Frolik brings (being the 10th overall draft pick in 2006), I’d like to see him get more powerplay time.
Watching Michael Frolik this year has turned me into a huge fan. He’s a gifted player and he’s special to watch. Because he does so many of the little things right and isn’t regarded as a huge scoring threat he can go un-noticed. That being said, the low PIMS, good +/-, and adequate offensive production (for the ice time he’s given) leads me to believe he’s actually one of the best players we have. I’ve quickly become one of his biggest supporters and I hope Jets brass feels the same way moving forward. Watch for Michael Frolik next game. Go Jets go!