Chicago Blackhawks: What Stan Bowman Really Picked Up with Michael Frolik

Jon FromiSenior Analyst IMay 13, 2011

Michael Frolik did not provide the offensive spark many thought he would when he came to Chicago in February.  He did impress in other ways, however.
Michael Frolik did not provide the offensive spark many thought he would when he came to Chicago in February. He did impress in other ways, however.Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The Chicago Blackhawks thought they were picking up a certain type of player when they dealt Jack Skille to the Florida Panthers in exchange for winger Michael Frolik.

The two players were at the heart of a five-player swap back in February.  GM Stan Bowman thought Frolik could snap out of a scoring funk and provide depth that Skille was not able to provide in Chicago.

At the time, both franchises were sending away players who had failed to live up to expectations.

Looking back, the 'Hawks may have gotten a different player than they bargained for.

Frolik was without a goal in his final 23 games with the Panthers and the change of location did not seem to help open the net.  It took Frolik 10 games with the Blackhawks to pick up his first points.  Those came when he logged a goal and a pair of assists in a March 2nd victory over Calgary.

Frolik's offensive game actually got worse in Chicago.  Even in a down season goals-wise, the 23-year-old Czech was averaging .56 points a game before the trade, right in line with his career average with Florida.  In 28 games with the Blackhawks, Frolik had 3 goals and 6 assists, averaging .32 points a contest.

In his defense, Frolik had Tomas Kopecky as his center when he first hit town.  Still, he took more shots this season (251) than any of the 'Hawks other than Patrick Sharp.

His 4.4 percent shooting percentage was pathetic.  To put it into perspective, the oft-maligned Jake Dowell hit on 8.4 percent of his shots.  Only Ryan Johnson was worse (4.0 percent) of the Chicago forwards who took regular shifts.  Even Skille found the net at a 5.2 percent clip this season.

So what made Frolik such an upgrade over Skille, who battled an ankle injury and had a goal and an assist in 13 games with the Panthers?

Despite not coming through in the numbers department, Bowman got the best of the trade in the short term for the following reasons:

1.  Frolik was able to play bigger minutes that Skille was logging in Chicago.  More than four minutes a game to be specific.

2.  Frolik was able to play a more rounded game than Skille, especially when the playoffs started.

3.  Even though tales of his experience at the position were greatly exaggerated by Bowman, Frolik was able to contribute valuable minutes at center while Dave Bolland was out.

Frolik ended the playoffs as a member of a very effective checking line with Bolland and Bryan Bickell, despite not really clicking with the pair earlier in the season.

So where does that leave the Blackhawks when it comes to retaining Frolik's services?

Frolik is a restricted free agent this summer, but is not arbitration eligible.  That and the fact that his offensive numbers were way down from the previous two seasons should allow Bowman to slot Frolik into next year's roster at a minimal increase in salary.

There's been talk of Frolik centering the second line.  He's a lefty, which Marian Hossa prefers, but I feel his best value to the 'Hawks is on the third line.

One thing Frolik can do is shoot the puck.  He was 25th in the NHL this season in shots taken.  As a two-way winger, he could get pucks on net.  This would create opportunities for rebounds that could be collected by a net-charging line mate.

It's more than possible that Frolik is capable of being a 40-50 point player in this league again.  The 'Hawks would do well for him to be a checking line winger that can defend and still put up 30-35 points.  The question lies in Frolik's willingness to play that role.

If Bowman and the Hawks are looking for that second line center or scoring wing with Frolik, they may want to look elsewhere—he's not exactly an upgrade in those roles.

However, if getting Frolik's name on a contract provides the Blackhawks with a solid third-line winger who has the versatility of filling in at center, get a deal done.  Chicago gains depth and the potential for some offensive bite.

Frolik may not have been the player the 'Hawks bargained for at the time of the trade with Florida.  The two-way potential he showed down the stretch suggests that it's not necessarily a bad thing.