Alexander Frolov Creates Dilemma For Dean Lombardi

LOMBARDI ON FROLOV: Los Angeles Kings President/General Manager Dean Lombardi talks about Alexander Frolov, his enigmatic forward, whose contract expires at the end of this season. Part 3 of a series. Look for part 4 later this week.

LOS ANGELES — Since the 2002-03 season, winger Alexander Frolov has been a top six forward for the Los Angeles Kings. A highly-skilled player, Frolov has a definite scoring touch, good hands, and he can pass the puck as well as anyone. The 27-year-old native of Moscow, Russia is also strong along the boards and in the corners and has an uncanny ability to protect the puck once he gets it.

The 6-3, 208-pound winger, who was selected by the Kings in the first round (twentieth overall) in the 2000 National Hockey League Entry Draft, had his best seasons in 2006-07 (35 goals, 36 assists for 71 points) and 2008-09 (32 goals, 27 assists for 59 points). In his six seasons in the NHL prior to the 2009-10 season, Frolov has scored twenty or more goals in each season, except for the 2002-03 season (fourteen goals), his rookie year.

Frolov has displayed flashes of brilliance, but has been an enigma throughout his career because it is evident that he is capable of reaching another level, but does not seem to have the mental makeup to play at that level, night in and night out.

But is Frolov really that good? Is he skilled enough to be a forty-goal scorer?

At this point in his career, Frolov’s aggravating knack to be the best player on the ice in several games only to completely disappear for another stretch of games indicates that the answer to that question is a fairly resounding “no.”

Indeed, expectations for Frolov were probably too high to begin with.

“I think the first premise, that he should be a forty-goal scorer—he had those thirty-goal years, but don’t forget, there’s a big difference between being a thirty-goal scorer on a contender and a thirty-goal scorer on a bad team,” Kings President/General Manager Dean Lombardi said during a recent interview. “That’s the first thing you want to be careful of.”

“When you’re building, you ask [yourself], where does he fit on a good team? When he’s young, yeah, he could be a forty-goal scorer,” Lombardi added. “But those thirty-goal years, I’m not sure they translate into forty [on a contender]. Actually, the guy who’s a 25-goal scorer on a contender, often times, is a better player than a thirty or 35-goal scorer on a bad team.”

Aside from the current season, during Frolov’s entire NHL career, the Kings have been just that…a bad team. It was in this context that most people developed their belief that Frolov was destined for bigger and better things.

“Did the bar get raised a little too high for all of us? And you’re not the only one, either,” said Lombardi. “A lot of scouts would’ve been with you on that three years ago.”

“He’s still a good player,” added Lombardi. “But is he ever going to get to where you’re talking about? Maybe it was unrealistic to think that’s where he was in the first place. So that’s where you have to be careful when you’re in personnel. If you raise the bar too high and the guy can never reach that standard, all of a sudden, you dislike him and you forget all the good things he’s doing because he still does some good things.”

Lombardi acknowledged that he too believes Frolov is capable of more.

“Where he frustrates you, and you just said it, he could do more and nothing in any walk of life frustrates any employer or your relatives—he could be so much more,” Lombardi lamented. “But if you’ve reached your potential and that’s to drive the garbage truck, that’s good. But if a guy’s driving [a garbage truck] and should be a Harvard MBA or something, that’s not good.”

In 47 games this season, Frolov has scored eleven goals and has contributed nineteen assists for thirty points through games played on January 18, 2010—he is nowhere close to a forty-goal pace, or even thirty goals, for that matter.

Will Frolov, who is earning $4 million this season and is in the final year of his contract, seek a significant pay raise, even though his statistics do not support it?

If he does, that would create a huge dilemma for Lombardi. Should he sign Frolov anyway? Trade him? Let him walk and sign with another team or with Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League?

Lombardi, who did not comment on the status of negotiations with Frolov, or about what his specific salary demands may be, said that he expects difficulties in signing him.

“Our problem under this new system [with the salary cap], is OK, I can’t pay you as a forty-goal scorer,” Lombardi explained. “I’m not sure I can pay you as a thirty-goal scorer. I like you, even if you stay the same, I think I can win a [Stanley] Cup for you in this role. But if a player has to get X amount of dollars, he has to fill [the] role [that fits that dollar amount].”

“That’s the quandary as a manager—there was an article today about all the guys making $9 million,” Lombardi elaborated. “If you’re making $9 million you have to be the leader, you have to carry the ball, score—you have to be everything.”

“Do I like the guy? Yeah, but I don’t like him at $9 million because I’m not getting all those things. Using that philosophy as we move down the line, do I like him at $5 million? Well, I’ve got to have this and this. Do I like him at $3 million? Yeah, because I only need this.”

Given that Frolov has established over his six-plus NHL seasons that he is unlikely to take his game to the next level, Lombardi is not likely to be interested in giving Frolov a significant pay raise. He might not even be interested in giving him any pay raise at all.

“That’s the bigger problem for us,” he said. “I’m not so sure you can go to the bank and say he’s still going [to score forty goals], so let’s pay him like a [forty-goal scorer]. I’m not prepared to do that. But I still think he does a lot of good things.”

“We might just have to accept that Frolov is Frolov,” he added. “Here’s the good things he does. He could be better, but let’s accept him for what he is. Here’s where that fits and here’s what it pays.”

Lombardi warned that overpaying for Frolov would get in the way of other moves he will need to make to improve the team.

“If [the salary structure] gets out of whack, it puts you in a tough position because [Frolov is] still a good player,” Lombardi stressed. “If it gets out of whack, it keeps me out of making that next move unless he would decide to do what I think—I don’t know if we can go to that.”

“Again, do you like him? Yeah,” Lombardi added. “[Let’s say] he should score forty [goals]. Do you want to pay him as a forty [goal scorer]? I don’t think we’re going to see [that]. So now what do you want to pay him as? As a 25-goal scorer? Twenty? Thirty? 35? What do you want to pay him? I’m just giving you what the dilemma is.”

Much of the debate about what to do with Frolov goes back to expectations.

“I think you have to block the [higher expectations] out because you’re not going to like him at all and that’s not fair,” said Lombardi. “You say he should be doing more, but you always have to be careful when you see a player who’s capable of doing more because you’re going to get mad at him.”

“[Compare that to] a fourth-line player who gives you everything he has and you love him, but him giving you everything he has is not even as good as half of [what Frolov gives you],” added Lombardi.

“So you have to be careful of being too down on Frolov because ‘he should be,’ but let’s accept him for what he is, and that’s still pretty good. Now put a price on that.”

Indeed, price will be the question and the answer will determine if Frolov is still with the Kings next season and beyond, or, perhaps as soon as the March 3 trade deadline.

Related Story:
Los Angeles Kings: Alexander Frolov Destined For KHL?

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25 thoughts on “Alexander Frolov Creates Dilemma For Dean Lombardi

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  1. That’s a fascinating perspective on Frolov. All things considered I’d like to see him extended but just like Lombardi I would be very careful of committing too much salary to him.

  2. Good read!
    Of course look at him for what he is and does, which is being a GREAT player.
    Also it’s not only about the goals, but also the defense and the puck control (which is something I absolutely love him for).
    I really want them to work out a nice contract together :-)

  3. Frolov really is an interesting problem. He has the potential to be so much more but usually ends up performing based on whatever motivational streak he is on. Paying him what he is worth is even more problematic just because you do not even know what he is worth.

  4. I guess this is Lombardi’s roundabout way of saying, “I’ve come to terms with Frolov’s value, and I’m willing to let him walk if he doesn’t want to sign at that number.” I do like that Lombardi always qualifies good stats on bad teams – those are not as valuable as stats on a good, contending team.

  5. It’s pretty simple really…if you (Frolov) think your worth being paid what a 40 goal scorer in this league gets paid, then you will have to get that contract elsewhere. I like you, and I like what you do for this team, and I FEEL you have the ability to score 40+ goals, but you don’t.

  6. I’m very interested to know what Frolov’s salary demands are. If he accepts what he’s worth, I think Lombardi might re-sign him.

    That said, there are a few GM’s out there that would overpay Frolov. I hate to keep picking on the guy but Sather would probably pay him $5 million.

  7. Great read, Gann! I actually consider Lombardi’s comments to be a sign of progress. He’s not going to throw out the baby with the bath-water. It’ll really come down to how much Frolov wants to be in LA.

    My concern with letting him walk is that filling his role from inside the organization is going to result in a talent downgrade. I don’t see anyone who can do the things he does for the price on the free-agent market, either.

    I just want to see the man play one playoff series. I think his puck-control game is well-suited to the playoffs, and want to see how he performs when there’s more emotion and more on the line. Hopefully we’ll get that chance this season…

  8. i agree with just about everybody on here even lombardi , the good team vs. bad team references are right on the money and just also agree that yes we all want him he is a great player ….. his board work is invaluable ….. and it will be a huge loss if we lose that … theres no one that can replace him in our organization or free agency ……. i think one way people or even lombardi maybe is getting confused, is that frolov IS AT HIS POTENTIAL …….. hes never scored 40 , so why would anyone expect him to now …….. yes this year there has been an offensive dip and he might get only 20 …. but that by no means indicates he is struggling …. just like lombardi said – we were a bad team before, so when players have free reign, they can put up better numbers ….. now were a much better team with a sound defensive structure so his numbers should naturally go down ……… but 20 to 25 goals is very valuable when u consider everything else he does along the boards …. if he didnt do such awesome board work then, no, he wouldnt be worth the money ….. but the fact is he does!!! a very good player and hard to replace , hes not a high skill guy – nobody on the kings is – so nobody should expect him to be ….. but hopefully lombardi realizes the importance of his combination of board play, slightly above average skill, and goal scoring ability ……… lol i know the redwings realize it and will pay him 5 million dollars per year

  9. dustin brown is the guy i want out of here – not frolov ….. brown has the worst hands i have ever seen on a top six forward

  10. Thanks Gann for your work, most of us really appreciate it. Please keep us updated when you can. It’s good to get a grip of what Dean is trying to do. Thank you again.

  11. only get sykora if he is going to take ivannis place in the lineup, otherwise, no way …… and since the kings love to weaken their team by playing ivannis every night, sykora does not look like an option ……. i dont want sykora anywhere near our top 3 lines

  12. gaborik is on pace for 50 goals and 50 assists …. 100 points ……….. man did lombardi blow it …. and only for 7.5 million for 5 years ….. makes all this kovulchuk talk look silly ……. kouluchuk wants more money and years and isnt even as good a player and not to mention all we had to do was sign him and not even worry about what players another team would want like atlanta etc….. god allmighty did he blow it … hes made some good moves … getting rid of the small cammi and lubo, getting jack johnson and ryan smyth for nothing basically …… but he has made just as many bad moves …. we all know what they are so i mention them all …. but gaborik takes the cake

  13. Isn’t it harder to score goals on a bad team? If it was easier… the team wouldn’t be that bad of a team. Frolov has been the most consistent player the Kings have had in the past five years. This year for the most part he has been playing in the 3rd line… How do you expect him to reach his potential on the 3rd line?
    DL, name me a 3rd line player that has 30+ goals on a bad team. Name me a 3rd line player that has 30+ goals in a good team!?!
    You want to talk about not performing. Ah… Kopitar comes to mind! 6 million per year and he is on pace to reach 31 goals!!! Lets talk about Mike Cammalleri, if you recall he wasn’t looking at 5 million per season when we had him… but that’s what his getting in Montreal and he is on pace to reach 36 goals… he’s not good at the defensive game nor can he protect the puck. So really… how much is Frolov really worth. DL please STOP while you’re ahead!

  14. No, Cammalleri was demanding $6 million after one good season in the league…and on a bad team. He wasn’t worth that much at the time and after losing his arbitration, he was bitter and wasn’t going to sign with the Kings again anyway.

  15. stop all the nonsense … cami is making 6 million on montreal …. hes too small and only a one dimensional player, worth only 4 million, tops …. unloading cammi and lubo when he did was a brillant move by lombardi

  16. Don’t get me wrong…I was never a Cami fan! I was just trying to show how much Frolov is worth by comparing people that we are familiar with.
    First we have Kopitar, getting paid $6 mil to score around 30+ goals per year. Sluggish Kopitar that skates like he was pulling DL around, isn’t that great on D and doesn’t play that much on the PK.
    Second we have Cami at $6 mil, too small to do anything but cherry-pick and score goals… 35+ of them.
    Now… Frolov, when playing in the top two lines scores an average of 30 goals in the past 3 years, good two way player, plays the PP and PK and is great at protecting the puck. Does he do stupid things? Yeah.. they all do. But I rather see Frolov on the ice than Kopitar moping around trying to figure out what on earth he is suppose to be doing…look at the past 25 games! Oh.. and don’t even bring up the bad team good team thing again. If you ever played… you would know that goals come much easier on a good team!
    Bottom line.. the thing that I dislike the most is DL going public and putting players down. On top of that, they play Frolov on the 3rd line and they go out and say… Well if he is that good he will find ways to score 30+ goals in the 3rd line. Come on! How many 3rd line players are in the league that have 30+ goals? If you are going public and saying that he hasn’t reached his potential… don’t go out there and put him in a situation that he is going to fail. How is it that Purcell is on the top line? Don’t tell me that he earn a spot in the top line because he has proven to be a goals score! If you want Frolov to reach his potential you put him on the top line so that he can succeed!
    What’s next week story from DL about Frolov!
    DL’s song and dance may work on most of you but not with me…

  17. This is a tough one !!! I really dont like telling the league about benching Fro in the last year of his contract, in case you want to trade him. I think you have to negotiate a contract NOW ! If he wants too much money or looks like he’s going to check out free agency then trade him. I also have questioned coach Murray’s decision not to play him on the top line. Finally I could see Frolov going to Detroit and haunting us for years.

  18. Gann, thanks for giving me something I can sink my teeth into besides the token space the Times gives to hockey’s best writer, Helene Elliott.
    Let me first say that I am not an FOF (fan of Frolov). Does he do a good job protecting the puck along the boards when he has possession? Yes. Does he make an occasional good pass in the middle on a potential scoring play? Yes. But even aside from his inconsistency with night-in, night-out effort, he’s certainly not a two-way player, nor can he be counted on as a true playmaker or creative scorer. What he is, is another grinder type player, of which the Kings have a preponderance. But this is where, in fact, he can help us. Huh?
    That’s right. What the Kings have been missing since Gretzky left–even though at that point in his career he was not scoring a ton of goals–is a big, fast sniper. Obviously Cammy didn’t fill that void, as he was truly one-dimensional and anything but big (read easily checked off the puck). What I’m getting to is that we do need Kovalchuk, and he’d be worth every penny the richest owner in sports would have to pay him. He is big. He is powerful. He is creative. He is a team guy. And he simply fills the net with pucks. Atlanta would be glad to replace him with a less-expensive guy like Frolov as part of a multi-player deal. As long as we don’t have to break up our core of young, talented guys (e.g., Doughty, Johnson, Simmons, etc.), we have other grinder-types we can afford to give up for a game-breaking, difference-making player who would truly put and keep butts in seats at Staples.

  19. Good article!

    Also, it’s nice to see classy DL using such a great microphone as the Shure Beta 87A cardioid condenser (in the pic).

    The Beta 87A is known for it’s crisp, detailed, and just slightly-compressed sound.

    Not only is DL a smart GM & sharp-dresser–He SOUNDS
    great too!

    Now all he needs is an Avalon Mic preamp to go
    with that fine mic he uses. Then, he’d
    be the best-sounding GM in the entire NHL!!

  20. kings4life, brilliant idea. Trade Kopitar, give Frolov 6 million a year, put him on the top line and see what happens. Are you really a Kings fan? Cause some of the things you’re writing don’t make much sense, looking from a Kings fan perspective. What Lombardi is saying, read between the lines, Frolov will not be a part of the organization much longer. And Kovalchuk would be great on this team.

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