The NHL’s reigning cup champs were forced to sell off a great deal of their supporting depth this past off-season thanks to cap constraints. The good news for Hawks fans, then, is that Stan Bowman managed to add some back this week with the notable acquisition of Michael Frolik.
A former 10th overall pick of the Florida Panthers, Frolik jumped straight into the show from junior and scored 20+ goals and 40+ points in both his rookie and sophomore seasons. On woefully undermanned Panthers clubs, no less. What’s even more impressive is that Frolik has managed those decent counting stats despite facing some relatively tough circumstances during his time in Florida. Last season, for example, Frolik had the second highest corsi rate amongst regular forwards (-3.52) despite boasting one of the tougher zone start ratios (45.0%).
This season, Frolik has mainly played on a line with Stephen Weiss, often against other team’s best players. Nevertheless, his corsi/60 rate is the best on the team (+3.23), despite once again starting out more often in the defensive end (47.6% zone start). In short, the kid is playing the heavies and moving the puck in the right direction.
Although his underlying numbers are better than solid this season, the counting stats aren’t there (eight goals, 29 points) which is probably what made him seem expendable. The explanation is a personal shooting percentage of just 5.1% so far this year, which is well below his career average of about 10.0% and well outside what one could reasonably expect from an NHL forward. As Gabe Desjardins demonstrates here Frolik is on a 0-for-75 shooting stretch which, while improbable, can be a consequence of natural variance. The dude’s been flat-out unlucky this year and is bound to bounce back at some point. The Panthers sold an asset at it’s lowest point.
As for Jack Skille, well…he’s also a former top-10 pick (7th overall in 2005), but he’s nowhere near the player Frolik is. Although he’ll be turning 24 in May, this season will be his first full year in the league. Quenneville has also sheltered Skille constantly as a rookie this season, as evidenced by his average ice time (10:44) and zone start (62.1%). Skille played in the Hawks bottom-six rotation, mostly against nobodies. His corsi rate is good (+12.29/60), but that has almost everything to do with the quality of his circumstances.
To be fair, Skille has also suffered through a rotten personal SH% this year (5.7%), but his history and underwhelming underlying numbers suggest he’s a mediocre player. There’s a chance he wouldn’t have even made the show at all this year absent Chicago’s great off-season sell-off.
The Panthers added a bottom-six forward with a limited ceiling. The Blackhawks added a 22-year old who has faced stiff competition pretty much from the day he joined the league and has already scored 20+ goals at this level. Twice. Chicago is the clear winner of this trade, without even taking consideration of the other pieces.