Player evaluation: Fraser
This season: 67 games, 2 goals, 6 assists, minus-2 rating.
The good: Expectations were low at the start of the season for Fraser, who was essentially a get-it-done throw-in as part of the trade that sent Ryan Smyth to Edmonton. Terry Murray offered an un-enthusiastic “I’ll pass that along’’ comment when it was pointed out that Fraser had completely healed from a broken foot in October. When Fraser got into the lineup, though, in mid-November, he didn’t leave. Fraser quickly established himself as a perfect-fit fourth-line center. He’s responsible, with and without the puck, and has no fear of taking or delivering a hit. Off the ice, Fraser is unselfish and constantly positive and upbeat.
The bad: As the broken foot would indicate, Fraser’s go-for-broke style puts him at risk for injury. He has missed 12 to 15 games in each of the past three seasons, and his face is regularly dotted and/or slashed with various marks from sticks, pucks and even skates. Fraser has never scored more than seven goals in an NHL season, although he did score a huge one in the Stanley Cup Finals, and in general, a player in his role is worried less about scoring goals and more about preventing them and about generating energy and momentum for his team.
Going forward: The recent comparable for the Kings, in terms of on-ice effort and off-ice attitude, is Derek Armstrong, who was revered for his unselfishness and hard work. Fraser is more skilled than Armstrong was, though, and he’s only 27 years old. Bringing him back for two more seasons was a strong move by the Kings. They could have, perhaps, cut loose Fraser and promoted Marc-Andre Cliche into that spot, but Fraser is a big part of the Kings’ team dynamic, and he did his job well this season. Cutting him loose would have been a loss.