I wrote this when I was mad so it's kind of meandering and I repeat myself and the whole thing sort of collapses on itself like a dying star towards the end, but I figured I'd just publish it anyway.
This is the first time I've ever been less than 100% behind Dean Lombardi. I was behind him when he cast Mike Cammalleri out of LA, and I was behind him when he dismissed Lubomir Visnovsky a few days before his no-trade clause kicked in. I rationalized the signing of Dan Cloutier and Tom Preissing, the contract given to Jarret Stoll, the overpaying for Rob Scuderi, the hiring and firing of Marc Crawford, the drafting of Colten Teubert, all of it. But now, for the first time, I'm wondering if the general manager of my favorite team is in fact an idiot.
I mean, what else could explain it? What else could explain the Kings benching their top scorer and 2nd best defensive forward from the previous season, a man who has 5 points in 8 games and has been on the ice for 4 even strength goals against despite playing against the other team's top competition night in night out? What else could explain the Kings benching Alex Frolov? Looking at Terry Murray's comments from yesterday, I'm sure not seeing any reasonable explanation.
The complaints against Frolov are as follows:
1) He's not competitive enough. Basically, Frolov has J.D. Drew Disease. Remember J.D. Drew? Drew was an outfielder for the Dodgers for about 1 1/2 seasons (he was hurt for a while) and was mostly productive while he was here, yet you'll not hear a Dodger fan say one good thing about him. Why? Because he looked like he didn't care. Drew would come up with the bases loaded, strike out looking on a ball low and outside, then saunter back to the dugout looking like he didn't have a care in the world. It used to drive my brother apoplectic, and why not? We care a lot, why shouldn't he? The problem, of course, is that Drew obviously cared; you can't be a professional athlete if you don't care intensely about what you do. He just didn't show it.
Frolov is the same way. He obviously cares but he doesn't show it. While Kopitar may miss a big chance and occasionally slam his stick or curse out loud, Frolov has that same "Vietnamese guy in Platoon" face.* And, honestly, it can be infuriating. I want him to throw his stick, get mad, show the same anger I'm feeling when he messes up, but he doesn't. And really, why would he? He's played more hockey than we can dream of so he understands that getting mad doesn't affect anything. You can't get mad, especially when you play the careful game he does. And of course, the differences between Fro and Drew are that Fro isn't paid like a superstar while J.D. Drew was and Fro has performed far beyond his contract while Drew didn't.
*You know, the guy hopping around while Charlie Sheen makes him dance? He's got that look on his face that's... I don't know how to describe it but even I wanted to put a round into him. That's the look Fro has on his face when he's mad.
2) He's not intense enough. Similar to the complaint above, people usually say that Frolov isn't intense. But really, what does that even mean? He doesn't make an angry face when he plays? Fro isn't intense because he doesn't play an intense game. He doesn't really check people, he doesn't really go into high traffic areas, and he doesn't look like he's skating intensely because he has a long stride. Neither does Joe Thornton. Neither did Adam Oates. People are under this mistaken impression that Frolov needs to be some sort of sniper because he has a great wrist shot, but he's not. He's more of a set-up man than a goal scorer. What he is great at is puck possession, a skill that is rarely associated with intensity but it probably should be.
3) He's careless. This one probably chaps my hide the most. Terry Murray criticized Frolov for turnovers. Really? According to NHL.com, he has 2 giveaways this season. Yeah, one of them was in the last game and it was pretty brutal, but Drew Doughty has 7 giveaways this season. Davis Drewiske had an awful turnover against the Islanders that would have led to a goal if Jonathan Quick hadn't bailed him out. Matt Greene has 2 or 3 hilarious turnovers a game. Jack Johnson did the exact same thing Fro did last night except it was even more egregious because it was in his own zone, only Quick made a nice save so it didn't cost the Kings a goal. Why aren't they benched? Clearly, it's because (with the exception of Doughty) they don't have as much talent as Fro.
And this is what pisses me off the most about this whole situation: all of these criticisms of Fro, all these benchings and public denunciations, they all come down to one thing: they don't like the way he plays. That's it. Murray and Lombardi like north-south bangers like Dustin Brown, not Russians who are great at puck possession. That's why Brown can have an atrocious game and get lauded for the one thing he does right while Fro can shut down Marian Gaborik for 2+ periods in one game and then get slammed for one mistake in another. It's ridiculous. Murray and Lombardi are asking Fro to play against another team's top line, score 40 goals a season while playing with Michal Handzus and Wayne Simmonds, shoot a lot more, and get to the front of the net. Basically, they're asking him to not be Alex Frolov.
Before, it was different. Before, you'd here them talk about what Fro could be. Now they're criticizing what he is. Imagine how you'd feel, if someone criticized the thing you're best at while you know you can't change it. I can't really go left when I slide, both because I used to play like Kelly Hrudey and because of my knee. If I had a coach ride me over and over about it, I'd get pretty fucking frustrated. Fro probably feels the same way: obviously if you ask someone to change for 7 Goddamn years and he doesn't, maybe it's not because he doesn't feel like it, it's because he can't.
Frolov will not change. First off, he's 27 now and I think you're just going to take him as he is. And second, why should he? The man he is now has gained him millions of dollars playing hockey in the elite league in the entire world. He was raised to protect the puck, to use his large frame and solid balance to protect the puck in the corners, wait for the defense to show a crack and then exploit it. Now he's in a foreign country doing what he's always been taught and it's suddenly not good enough. Now he has to play defense. He does it. Now that's not enough. Now he has to... no one knows, score more. OK, he does that. Now he needs to... no one knows, not do what he's doing. How is he supposed to do that? On top of that, he's criticized for not talking to his coach when his coach yells at him in a language he doesn't really understand too well. I speak English (well, kinda) and I dont' know what Murray wants him to do.
So, in the end, just trade him. Frolov is my favorite player but I'd rather he go somewhere else and not be subjected to this type of abuse. Send him to Detroit for Ville Leino or Justin Abdelkader, or to Pittsburgh with some other stuff for Jordan Staal, or to somewhere to gain the puck-moving defenseman we lost when we traded for the left winger we needed to catch the spider that caught the fly. I don't know, just let him have some comfort and peace. He's never going to find it here.