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Posts tagged: Alex Frolov

Free Agency Watch: Simon Gagne

The Rangers are 99.99…..% likely to at least try and seduce Brad Richards into making Madison Square Garden his home from home – should he make the free agency madness that begins July 1st. Whether they get him or not however, the Rangers would be foolish to put all their eggs in one basket and not consider other targets, either as back up plans or as additional talent to compliment both Richards and the impressive young core assembled in New York.

This is one area that many Rangers fans disagree on. Not whether the Rangers should go after Richards but whether they should look to add more talent short term to aid a contender or continue to build patiently and not put everything on black. Can you build patiently and add talent to try and win at the same time? Tampa Bay are looking like a good example this season that suggests you can, and it’s at Tampa Bay we start our Free Agency watch, in regards to players that might interest the Rangers.

Simon Gagne

When fit (words so often heard around Rangers signings…) Simon Gagne is a great goal scorer and has been an elite goal scorer for several years. His career includes four seasons of more than 30 goals and 2 seasons where he eclipsed the 40 mark; for his career Gagne boasts 276 goals in the regular season. Indeed, it seems the only thing that has stopped Gagne being even more successful has been injuries. If you thought Gaborik was injury prone, take a look at Gagne. Yet, despite all those injuries, he still remains enticing. Gagne played in just 63 games this regular season and scored 17 goals and 40 points. In 9 games during these playoffs, the French Canadian has 8 points in 9 games proving he still has point/game talent when fit.

With a young Rangers team lacking in pure skill and goal scoring ability Gagne offers both, in addition to the massive experience he brings to the table (99 playoff games and counting). Gagne will likely hit the market this July for the very reason the Rangers should be cautious to add him; injuries. However it’s mainly for that reason Gagne should come cheap. No longer the genuinely elite winger he was in Philadelphia the 31 year old will not command the big dollars or length of deal he once would. A short, relatively modest deal could work for both sides. Low risk, potentially high reward for the Rangers and a chance to play top line minutes with the likes of Richards and Gaborik in NY are among the benefits for both player and team. Given the depth and youth (as well as a certain elite goalie) in New York, finding a true top line could boost the Rangers into the upper echelons of the Eastern Conference and a line of Gagne – Richards – Gaborik is certainly top line material.

The Rangers are not in win now mode but younger players certainly benefit from entering a franchise that has a winning culture (Detroit being exhibit A). While still integrating the young prospects such as Kreider, Thomas and Hagelin over the next few seasons, the Rangers would benefit from some genuinely successful seasons that featured a few solid playoff runs. Adding some veteran talent such as Gagne – on short deals – can help reach that aim. Will the Rangers make a move for Gagne? Who knows, but Gagne fills many voids in New York and could do so at a modest cost. While Alex Frolov didn’t work out in a similar scenario Vinny Prospal certainly did, proving that rolling the dice on a veteran – under the right conditions – can bring good results.

 

Stay Or Go: Alex Frolov

Now, before you go and laugh at me for even writing a post about this, let me say that if Alex Frolov hadn’t torn his ACL, I think he would have found his game and had a good second half.  That said, you can’t go on “what ifs”.  Frolov was a bit of a disaster of a signing for the Rangers, who signed the LW to a one year, $3 million deal last offseason.  Brought in to help the powerplay and take some of the pressure off Marian Gaborik, Frolov did neither.  Until he tore his ACL in January, he had a measly 16 points (7-9-16) in 43 games.  His ice time went from first line to fourth line almost instantly, and then he tore his ACL and was lost for the season.

That said, Frolov’s play was definitely effected by the Gaborik injury in October.  Playing with Gaborik in his first two games, Frolov notched an assist in each contest (ironically, so did Gaborik).  Once Gaborik went down with his injury, Frolov cooled considerably, notching just two goals and an assist in the 13 games Gaborik missed with his shoulder injury.  It’s not just about missing an elite talent on his line, it’s also about top defenders concentrating on him, rather than Gaborik.

Frolov never succeeded as a primary scorer, one who would face top defenders alone.  While he was in LA, he had Dustin Brown and Mike Cammalleri during his career best 2006-2007 season, and again in 2007-2008.  Following that, it was Anze Kopitar and other young LA talent that drew top defenders, leaving Frolov to deal with significantly less competition, where he benefited.  That’s not a slight against Frolov by any means, he is an effective secondary scorer, which is what he was brought in to be.  Unfortunately, when Gaborik went down, he was thrust into the primary scorer role, a role which does not suit him.

When Gaborik came back, the chemistry just wasn’t there.  The team success didn’t really take a hit, thanks to Brandon Dubinsky and Ryan Callahan, but the faith in Frolov was lost, and he saw most of his time on the fourth line with less skilled teammates.  People will hate on Frolov for not producing, and hate on Glen Sather for making this signing, but in the end, it was a low-risk, high-reward signing that didn’t pan out.  It’s not like he’s committed to the Rangers for next year too.  He won’t be back, and while some will say good riddance, I will say it’s sad it didn’t work out.  Frolov-Stepan-Gaborik could have been great.

Rangers Recall Kris Newbury (Update: Frolov Done For Year)

As per Andrew Gross, the Rangers have recalled forward Kris Newbury from the CT Whale. Newbury has been called up to replace Alex Frolov, who injured his leg in the third of the Rangers win against St. Louis last night. Newbury is one of the the Whale’s leading scorers this season, with 35 points (5-30-35) in 41 games this season. As of now, there are no new details on the Frolov injury. We will keep you posted here.

Update 7:05pm: Alex Frolov has torn his ACL, and is done for the year. He will undergo season-ending surgery to repair his knee. Looks like Newbury will be up for a while.

Frolov Unhappy

First off, thanks to Laurie Carr for finding and translating this interview Alex Frolov had with the Russian media. Laurie, who runs Beyond the Blueshirts, does a great job tracking what’s going on behind the scenes at the Connecticut Whale, and overseas with the Rangers prospects in Russia. If you haven’t checked out her site, you should.

As per Laurie, Frolov is fairly unhappy in New York, and has had a private discussion with coach John Tortorella about his ice time. When Frolov signed, he was guaranteed a chance to play significant time with Marian Gaborik, and that was a big factor in his decision to sign with the Rangers. Of course, Frolov has seen his ice time diminish to the point that he has been relegated to fourth line duties with Artem Anisimov and Derek Boogaard, a far cry from Gaborik. In regards to the decreased ice time, Frolov is less than pleased:

- What’s happened that in recent games you’ve been moved to the humiliating fourth line with the goon Boogard?
– A couple of days ago I initiated a private conversation with our head coach, [John] Tortorella, during which he claimed that he has nothing against me personally, and is simply trying to find some new [line] combinations. He said that the distribution of playing time depends only on that.

What aren’t you happy with?
– It’s absolutely unacceptable to me that that I spend 7-8 minutes a game on the ice, especially on an energy line. It’s just not my game, which I told the coach candidly. But there are no personal problems between me and him. I’m not a quarrelsome person. Even in our recent conversation there was no swearing or raised voices. Nobody blamed anyone, we simply discussed the situation. The coach promised that soon everything will change, I just need to be a little patient and work harder in practice.

Frolov hasn’t exactly been terrible this year, he’s just not doing what he was signed to do, and has been rather snake bitten this year. If he was signed to score, and isn’t doing so, then his decreased ice time is justified, considering guys like Brian Boyle are lighting the lamp at a better rate than Frolov. It seems like there is a miscommunication between Tortorella and Frolov about what his role should be as well:

Did you present any particular complaints to Tortorella?
– To me they’re still not completely clear. He asks that I shoot on goal as much as possible at every opportunity, even from the corners. But yet he demands that I loiter in front of the net, blocking the visibility of the opposition’s goaltender. I’m trying to readjust.

More often than not, situations like this are a simple case of a misunderstanding. Frolov does need to shoot more, and they need to be from better angles. However, his style of play has never been to sit in front of the net. If this were NHL ’11, he would be a “dangler”, and not the power forward that it appears Tortorella wants him to be sometimes. Good players adjust to what the coach expects, and still delivers the same production. But on the flip side, good coaches adjust to what their players are capable of doing. If Tortorella wants someone to be in front of the net when Gaborik is on the ice, that is best suited for guys like Brandon Dubinsky and Chris Drury, not Frolov.

Laurie also translated a bit that says Frolov has not yet asked for a trade, but hinted that he might if he does not receive the ice time and linemates he thinks he signed up to play with. If it were my decision, I would see how Frolov does with Gaborik and a net crashing center like Drury for a game or two before making any rash decisions. If it doesn’t work, then I would have no problem trading him for a draft pick. It certainly would answer the question about what the Rangers will do once Drury returns. It would also leave one less decision to make if and when Vinny Prospal returns.

Tough Decisions Looming When Drury Returns

For all intents and purposes, Rangers captain Chris Drury has missed the entire season to date with a broken finger. The news came last week that Drury’s return is going to be delayed until at least next week because he is still having trouble gripping a stick. Drury has spent the entire season on long term injured reserve, and thus the Rangers have had some cushion in the salary cap to keep 13 (and sometimes 14) forwards and 7 defensemen with the club. That changes when Drury returns, as he will need to be activated from LTIR, and that cushion disappears.

When that cushion disappears, it is all but a certainty that Todd White will be sent to the Connecticut Whale. White has been waived twice thus far this year, and will likely be waived again in the coming days, as his 30 day window has expired since the last time he was waived. White’s cap hit of $2.375 million clears enough room for the Rangers to get back under the cap when Drury’s $7.05 million cap hit is re-activated. It shouldn’t be a surprise that White will be sent to Hartford, considering the dual waiving and his inability to not only crack the lineup, but remain in the lineup for a consistent period of time.

The demotion of White is the easy decision for the Rangers. The tough decision is deciding who will replace White in the press box once Drury returns. There are a few candidates for the healthy scratch, and there are legitimate reasons for scratching each of them:

  • Derek Boogaard: The Rangers enforcer isn’t exactly the best skater in the world, and he doesn’t bring much to the table other than the intimidation factor. Considering the upcoming schedule against some very skilled teams, it is likely that Boogaard will be scratched for a handful of those games.
  • Alex Frolov: Frolov is doing his best Chris Higgins impression this year. It’s not that he’s been bad, he just can’t seem to score. He has been effective at bringing the puck into the offensive zone, but he always winds up behind the net trying a wrap around. Maybe a trip to the press box for a game or two will remind him to shoot the puck before he gets behind the net.
  • Erik Christensen: Naturally, I’m going to mention Christensen here. Christensen may have 11 points, but 5 of them have come in two games against terrible teams (Edmonton, Islanders). He has just 6 points in the other 26 games he has played this year, and this is with significant time on the top line with Marian Gaborik. Christensen is very skilled, but skilled doesn’t mean anything if you aren’t scoring. The difference between him and Frolov is that Frolov at least plays decent defense.
  • Ruslan Fedotenko: Fedotenko is in the middle of an eight game scoreless drought after netting five points in his previous three games. Fedotenko is another one of those players who does other things to make up for his lack of production, but he does have 11 points this year while playing predominantly on the third line. A game or two as a scratch might wake him up a little bit.
  • Derek Stepan: This one is a long shot, but Stepan could wind up playing in Connecticut as well if Rangers brass decides to go with the old adage of salary over performance. Stepan is on this list because the Rangers history with playing salary over those deserving isn’t pretty. This one is very unlikely, but it’s worth mentioning.

So that I’m not leaving you guys to guess on your own, I think Drury will be re-inserted as a permanent figure in the lineup, and Boogaard and Christensen will be rotating as the healthy scratch. Christensen provides some extra offensive punch against the skilled teams, while Boogaard will definitely be a physical force against teams like the Flyers.

Gaborik The Glue

Marian Gaborik is more than just an elite goal scorer; he’s the player that causes the Rangers lines to be appropriately allocated. Against Edmonton we saw what Gaborik can do with the puck; score on opponents almost at will. However perhaps more important than his scoring ability, is Gaborik’s presence and what that means to players such as Erik Christensen and Alex Frolov. With Gaborik to pass to, EC suddenly resembled (a poor man’s) Adam Oates. With Gaborik on the opposite wing Alex Frolov became Glenn Anderson to Jari Kurri (the less heralded winger….). Playing with an elite line mate made both players better. More importantly, playing with Gaborik made both players productive. Both Frolov and Christensen have struggled to be effective offensively this season but both looked transformed alongside an in-flight Gaborik.

Along with the benefit felt by Frolov and Christensen, Artem Anisimov’s line played against lesser opposition, as did Derek Stepan’s line, and both lines had subsequent success. Gaborik causes a rippling effect on the roster that makes the offensive side of the Rangers look that much deeper. The Rangers don’t (yet)have the high end skill of the Caps or the Pens and don’t have the overall physicality of the Flyers, nor do they have the defensive depth of the Bruins but with Henrik Lundqvist in net and all three lines healthy and contributing the Rangers can match these sides on a game-by-game basis. Over a playoff series the Rangers may still come up short but it’s this potential ability to match up with the East’s premier teams that evidences how critical Gaborik is as both a producer and as a singular element on the roster.

Allowing for current projections/career seasons from the trio of Anisimov, Dubinsky and Callahan; allowing for a healthy (from here on in) Gaborik and counting on a consistent ‘presence’ from Avery and the occasional flash from guys such as Frolov and the Rangers can have a good season this year, a season which by all accounts is transitional. There’s nothing like success to develop the kids. They may only be 9-7-1 and they may (most probably will) lose games in bunches but the season looks promising as long as Gaborik is on board.

What To Do with Frolov

Its far too early to draw any conclusions, let alone panic, but The Rangers need to find a place for Alex Frolov and given Gaborik’s absence, sooner rather than later.

Frolov hasnt yet looked particularly comfortable and didnt seem to mesh with his new line mates in the loss against Colorado despite scoring his first goal as a Ranger. Derek Stepan and Ruslan Fedotenko’s line that featured an excellent Sean Avery shouldnt have been split up and there’s a good chance it will be reunited for the rematch with Toronto on Thursday. The line showed chemistry and offensive ability, something that any line Frolov has been on thus far has failed to do consistently. Alex Frolov needs to be successful for the Rangers to be successful. He instantly became one of the higher skilled players on the team upon signing in the off season and along with Gaborik needs to be a regular contributor.

So what to do with Frolov?  Its a difficult question to answer seeing as its hard to split up the better two lines thus far of Anisimov – Dubinsky – Callahan and Stepan’s line. Who can ignite Frolov? Frolov can make plays himself but would be best served with a distrbutor and given the lack of options due to injury one possibility would be pairing Frolov up with Todd White. White showed during his time in Atlanta that he can compliment and defer to a skilled winger (Kovalchuk) successfully and would be highly motivated to achieve some chemistry with Frolov given his daily fight to get in and stay in the line up. Even when Gaborik returns the no.1 center debate will still need answering so matching Frolov and White together now would, could start the process of forming a line that can have chemistry. Frolov and White both have a lot to play for, esentially both are playing for their NHL futures (to varying degrees) so they would surely be hungry to mesh.

The Rangers have a lot of issues and a lot of questions to answer and the Frolov situation bears watching. Right now, not many players (potentially) mean more to the success/failure of the Rangers early in the season.

Difference Makers and Opportunity

Difference makers… Alex Ovechkin? Sidney Crosby? Marian Gaborik? Duncan Keith? Joe Thornton? Zach Parise? Well yes, obviously. However teams only have a few of these players each, the cap doesn’t allow for Edmonton Oilers circa 1986 to exist anymore. Name the elite teams in the league. Chicago has a trio of studs in Toews, Kane and Keith. The Pens have Crosby, Malkin and maybe Jordan Staal. The Capitals have Ovechkin, Backstrom, Green (and looming cap headaches). Then there are a few teams that have one or two elite options and this is where the Rangers fall into rank thanks to Gaborik and Lundqvist. However the Rangers also have budding difference makers in their ranks, it’s worth remembering that.

Why do I mention these difference makers? For one, I disagree with some people’s notion that the Rangers failed to add a difference maker over the summer. Step forward Alex Frolov. The Rangers have two thirds of a dangerous, legitimate top line thanks to the addition of Frolov. He was and will once more be a difference maker; his talent and CV say so. So back to the question at hand… what constitutes a difference maker? In my opinion, if a player scores 25+ goals, 55-65+ points he’s a difference maker. He regularly bothers the scoreboard, he’s a threat more often than not and he commands the attention of the opposition’s better defenders. Frolov had a down year last year and yes, there’s no guarantee he’ll return to his 30 goal, 60 point level but he’s 28 and physically able. This isn’t like the Rangers taking on a frail, fading star like Eric Lindros was when he arrived in Manhattan. Why did the Rangers get Frolov? In part, they were the beneficiaries of LA’s growing stable of young talent; Frolov didn’t fit in their picture anymore. Nothing wrong with LA moving in another direction, it’s their prerogative.

So, how many players scored more points than Frolov last year? 91. How many scored more goals? A rather large 117. Again, remember Frolov had a down year. Rewind another year and Frolov scored an impressive 32 goals. How many players (last year) scored more than Frolov did in 08-09? 15. So that gives you some kind of idea where Frolov could rank. Consider last year’s circumstances where Frolov received less ice time, significantly less power play time and was to an extent a victim of depth, yet he still scored 51 points. 30 NHL teams can carry approximately 21 skaters (making 630 skaters) and a 51 point season is within the top 15% in the league. That 32 goal season of Frolov’s would rank in the top 3% of the league. That’s elite company, no? Yes, this is all crude, simple maths but Frolov won’t be a victim in New York. With big minutes and a lot of opportunity Frolov will be a difference maker once more.

This post however, isn’t only about Alex Frolov’s return to prominence. Marc Staal for example likely hasn’t maxed out his potential, yet he was one of the best even strength point producers from the blue line in the entire NHL last year. Give Staal more offensive opportunity and combined with his size, skill set and growing maturity and you have another difference maker. Defensively he already is a difference maker. Difference makers aren’t only about offensive statistics, they are also about opportunity, about situations and how they excel in them. The Rangers have a tremendous amount of upside and a handful of players that could easily – when all is said and done – be the envy of the league. Yes, this all requires patience, development and that all important opportunity but it’s a shame that certain parts of the media – before a regular season puck is even dropped – are already bemoaning the Rangers lack of top end talent. Give them a chance to become difference makers without the negativity weighing them down from the beginning.

The Rangers have difference makers and they have potential difference makers. The cap era NHL is about windows of opportunity just as much as it is about ‘difference makers’. The Rangers are approaching a window of opportunity given the potential the organization seems to have. Let’s look forward to it. Here’s to the new season, and the Rangers’ very own difference makers.

Prospal Out Provides Opportunity

UPDATE: this post was published prior to seeing Tim Kennedy and Todd White placed on waivers. One or both may clear waivers and stick with the team like Aaron Voros did in the past but this clearly isn’t a good situation for the two forwards.  We’ll look at other players who will get opportunities to impress at a later date. If White and Kennedy do leave the roster it means more ice time to go round in the short term. Stay tuned….

Vinny Prospal being injured for a few weeks provides an intriguing opportunity for several Rangers players to begin the season. It firmly places the pressure even more so on the first line, however that should line up. John Tortorella had openly stated his preference was to pair Frolov and Gaborik together and did so to great effect during the pre season. With Prospal out injured the pair and their center will be counted on even more as Prospal’s experience, secondary scoring and enthusiasm will be sorely missed. So what players comes into focus with Prospal (and Drury) out to begin the year?

Brandon Dubinsky

Much has been written about Dubinsky entering a cross-road like season in his career. He needs to take it to the next level, find consistency and become the player most Rangers fans believe he can be. Quite simply he needs to fulfil the promise he has teased the Rangers faithful with. With leaders such as Drury and Prospal out the offensive depth will be tested even more and Dubinsky has a chance to go out to begin the year and make himself invaluable. At this point of his career Dubinsky is no longer immune to being moved. Should he continue his up-down career form and the Rangers are deadline buyers Dubi will know, he and his expiring contract will be a potential trade chip. Dubi needs to start the year well, for both his own and the teams sake.

Todd White

Has anyone ever been on a more public audition? White will know his 2.3m salary, age and lack of pre season form puts him firmly in line to be a prime cut candidate when Drury and Prospal come back. He knows he needs a fast start to force his stay on the roster beyond the injury returnees or at worst make sure he’s a viable trade asset and not another NHL veteran banished to the AHL. White has talent and can deliver offensively but hasn’t shown it yet in his brief exhibition time with the Rangers. White could appear on any line so is a real X factor during the first few weeks.

Alex Frolov

Frolov, if you place any importance on pre season form, has started impressively as a Ranger. Scorer of goals, provider of goals, solid defensive play and displaying instant chemistry on the top line; Frolov has almost done it all. Now, when the games count and given the injuries Frolov goes from low risk free agent to must-succeed acquisition. Everyone knows Gaborik can’t do it all alone and with Prospal out Gabby needs a running mate. Frolov’s offense will be crucial to how the Rangers start the year and a lot of focus will be on the Russian. Will Frolov show the Kings they were wrong to let him go? The reasons stand to benefit massively should Frolov be as motivated as he seems.

Tim Kennedy

Kennedy is another player who should be motivated to prove his former employer wrong but like Todd White is another who is a bit of an X factor. Kennedy can play both center and wing so can potentially be a direct fill-in for either Prospal or Drury on the 2nd or 3rd lines. Kennedy has some offensive upside, is elusive and can skate well and has provided some occasional spark during pre season while never really convincing. While there won’t be the pressure of expectancy on a player who is playing for minimal cap space, Kennedy will still be expected to prove he’s worth his place on the roster given popular roster candidates such as Dale Weise and Mats Zuccarello-Aasen were sent down to accommodate him.

The Rangers have a lot of players facing various types of pressure. How the new recruits, underperforming returnees and ‘core’ players cope with expectation early on may dictate the Rangers season. A hot start can be crucial to a playoff berth, especially given the tight nature of the Eastern conference. It should be interesting to follow the individual fortunes of many Rangers this season.

Looking Ahead: Camp Time!

Training camp is upon us. The excitement level and anticipation for a training camp may never have been higher despite the fact the Rangers had a relatively low key off season (for their recent standards) and despite the fact the message coming from the staff has remained the same for the past five months.  That message comes in three main themes:  Youth, consistency and earning your spot.

Coach Tortorella went on record Thursday to once again preach what he has been saying over the entire off season and from Friday onwards we will see whether what he preaches is  indeed his intention. Many Rangers fans will monitor camp with pessimism because many veterans (Fedotenko, Redden, Exelby, Semenov, White etc) hover like a storm cloud over the talented prospects that so many want to see installed on the team immediately. With the Rangers often going with veterans in recent seasons, fans can be forgiven for the pessimism but this year does promise to be different. This is the first season in a while where the Rangers have had a handful of prospects at the same time that can legitimately become core pieces (and not fringe players) and the first camp where these prospects appear ready. Including a key prospect’s immediate future, here are three areas that I will be paying a lot of attention to…

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