For as long as Ryan Smyth is out of the lineup, Alexander Frolov will go a long way toward determining how successful the Kings will be. Doesn’t this kind of have the feel of a soap opera? Frolov, last year’s leading scorer, gets benched, comes back, moves up to the top line and…what’s next? Gets amnesia and has his evil twin brother show up?
It’s going to be very compelling to see how Frolov handles the move. I asked Justin Williams about skating with Frolov, and Williams said he thought he, Frolov and Kopitar had some shifts together near the end of last season.
Immediately after his one-game exile last month, Frolov had three goals and four assists in four games. Since then, he has had zero goals and four assists in nine games. Which Frolov will the Kings get now? Here’s what Terry Murray said about the ever-evolving situation…
Question: Ryan Smyth brings some specific qualities that helped Kopitar and helped that line. What does Frolov need to do in order to help that line stay at that level?
MURRAY: “He’s going to have to bring his `A’ game, as far as the playing side of it. Just be on top of his game, with the puck possession, cycles, puck protection, getting pucks to the net. That’s the one thing that Ryan Smyth does very well, is taking pucks and getting pucks to the net on a pretty consistent basis. I think Fro is a player that would rather pass the puck around some problems, and try to pass it to an open guy, rather than getting it to the net on a shot-mentality basis, like Smyth. So, can I change that? That’s a difficult request, but we’re going to keep talking about it.
“The other part that Ryan Smyth brings to it is just on the emotional side of the game. His mentality is different. He has an attitude of playing that game in the real dirty areas. I think that’s a big part of the addition that was really positive for that line. It really, I think, brought an attitude to Kopi, where now we’re seeing more of that drive to the net, take it to the blue paint in traffic, under pressure, which is a very courageous play. Ryan Smyth does that on a pretty consistent basis. So we’ll miss that part of it. I just hope that, after 20 games, Kopi has really seen that that’s an important part of it, and he can continue to do it and maybe encourage Fro to continue with the same idea.”
Question: It’s been roughly one month since you went through the stuff with Frolov, taking him out of the lineup. Since then, has he showed you what you need to see, consistently?
MURRAY: “Yeah, pretty good. Pretty consistent. What I talked to him about was concentration. Don’t stray from the game. We need more than skill in this game today. It’s got to be attitude. That’s five times more important than skill sometimes, when you’re playing the heavy games, the hard games, and this [Philadelphia] is one of the teams that you have to bring that attitude to. The concentration level, by Fro, since he’s been back into the lineup, has been good. He looks hungry to me. His intensity is right where it needs to be.
“Look, I’m not going to take too much of the credit for taking him out of the lineup. The other part of it, he knows this is a huge year for him contractually as well. Everything that he does, number-wise, is going to be referred to whenever they get into negotiations. So it’s very important that he bring his `A’ game every night.”