Washington Capitals v New York Rangers - Game Three

Alex Frolov denies accusing Sean Avery of making racist comments

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Strange things happen when you combine the language barrier with a need to back down from controversial comments. For those of us who don’t speak fluent Russian, we often have to take a foreign source’s word for things when a European player makes some controversial remarks.

It’s hard to tell how exactly the true thesis of Alex Frolov’s commentary about controversial former teammate Sean Avery was lost in translation, but it certainly was for quite some time when the story circulated around the hockey world on Monday. Before we get to the clarification, here’s the snippet from Joe’s Monday post regarding the comments that incensed some and eventually bewildered observers.

Slava Malmud of sport-express.ru translated the Q&A portion of the interview with Frolov to reveal what seems to be some pretty inflammatory comments.

Q: Why does everyone hate him?
AF: It’s not hate, it’s… He has a specific role, he is a pretty unique man and he likes to do, let’s say, extravagant things. Sometimes they’d be bordering on the forbidden. He isn’t a fool. Lately he has become calmer, smarter. Before he’d get swept away with emotions and do something stupid. To mention each and every one of his stunts… Something always happens around him, it’s a part of his job. He needs to be talked about. He loves it, he feels at home in the spotlight. Sometimes he called opponents “black monkeys.” He did a lot of things, I can’t remember all of them.

Yikes, right?

Frolov claims that he was either being misquoted or that his comments were taken out of context, according to a conversation with Jesse Spector.

“I didn’t say anything about Aves calling someone bad language – I was saying he’s really emotional and that in the past he could say the wrong thing,” Frolov told The News. “It wasn’t particularly about black people. He doesn’t have anything against black people. I mean, he’s a nice person, and he wouldn’t say something bad about black people or Asian people or any kind of people. It’s some kind of misunderstanding.”

Frolov’s relationship with Avery is interesting for the fact that they played together not only this past season, but also with the Los Angeles Kings from 2003-07, until Avery was traded to the Rangers. It was that incarnation of Avery that Frolov was mostly talking about in the interview, the Avery who was accused by the Oilers’ Georges Laraque of using a racial slur in 2005.

“I never heard him call anyone anything like that,” Frolov told The News. “Russian journalists, they were asking about him, and sometimes he could say something stupid, especially in the past. He’s not a bad person. He’s a good guy. … I didn’t try to say anything bad about Aves or say that he was trying to say something bad about anyone else.”

When it comes to a well-publicized agitator like Avery, many people will assume that he’s guilty until proven innocent. Who knows whether or not he made that comment toward Laraque or other ugly remarks to a variety of other opponents. It would take a dump truck full of naivete to assume that personal acts aren’t thrown around in the heat of battle, even when Mr. Avery is far from the scene.

It seems like the general message from Frolov – not to mention Avery’s more respectable series of react decisions – is that the man I once called “The Bart Simpson of Hockey” is growing up a bit. Greg Wyshynski provides this amusing vision of what might be going on in Avery’s head.

And that’s the point, isn’t it? That at sometime around Sloppy Seconds Gate, Avery decided he didn’t like the person staring back at him through $300 fashion glasses in that mirror from Urban Outfitters, and decided to change his behavior? That he’s still a pain in the ass but not the pain in the ass dropping racial taunts?

If only the takeaway quote from Frolov had been “calmer and smarter” instead. Because that’s Avery in 2011.

With the New York Rangers possibly primed for the 24/7 spotlight late this year, Avery could be the program’s best talker or biggest villain (or maybe a little of both). Perhaps we’ll get a better idea about the “new” Sean Avery then. Better yet, maybe the new Avery can even help the Rangers become an elite team next season.

The Panthers are healthy scratching Bolland, and he is their highest-paid forward, but they insist they’re not sending a message

Dave Bolland, Derek Nansen
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It feels like there’s a story brewing in Florida, where Dave Bolland — the team’s most-expensive forward, at $5.5 million a season — has been a healthy scratch for three consecutive games.

But according to head coach Gerard Gallant, there’s nothing to see here. Move along.

“There’s nothing to talk about,” Gallant said, per the Miami Herald. “He sat out, our team is playing well. There’s nothing more than that. We have to sit two guys and I like the way we’re playing. The next game is a different game. We may change something up, who knows.”

Bolland had just one goal and five points in 18 games prior to getting parked in the press box. Well, technically he got dropped to the fourth line before hitting the press box, but you get the idea. He’s not exactly in Gallant’s good graces.

Not helping Bolland’s case is the fact that, as Gallant pointed out, the club is playing pretty well without him. The Panthers have rebounded from a rough start to November by winning back-to-back games against the Islanders and Red Wings, which set them up nicely for the remainder of this current five-game road swing.

Florida has games still to play in St. Louis, Nashville, Columbus and New Jersey. It’ll be interesting to see when — or, if — he draws back into the lineup.

In closing, a reminder that Bolland’s in the second of a five-year, $27.5 million deal.

Canucks rookie Virtanen exits with upper-body injury, won’t return

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After sitting out Friday’s game in Dallas, Vancouver’s Jake Virtanen had to be excited at drawing back in for tonight’s game against the Ducks.

Unfortunately, the excitement didn’t last long.

Virtanen suffered an upper-body injury after playing just 1:45 in the opening frame, and was ruled out of the contest during the intermission. It’s unclear exactly what happened, but it looks like Virtanen was injured on a hit by Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf.

Virtanen didn’t take another shift following the incident, and Getzlaf was given a minor penalty on the play.

While we don’t know what the injury is or it’s severity, losing Virtanen for any length of time would have ramifications for the Canucks and this year’s Canadian entry at the World Juniors. There has been talk of Virtanen possibly being released by the Canucks to participate in the tournament; last year, he was part of the team that captured gold in Montreal and Toronto.

Virtanen has played in 18 games for the Canucks this year, scoring one goal and four points while averaging 10:17 TOI per night.

McLellan sounds off on Oilers after shutout loss in Toronto

Todd McLellan

Edmonton lost for the fourth time in five games on Monday, a 3-0 defeat in Toronto that marked the second time in a week the Oilers have been shut out.

Needless to say, the head coach wasn’t happy.

In a fairly blunt and harsh assessment aimed at a variety of players, Todd McLellan had some choice words for what he called a “disappointing” effort.

Some of the more choice quotes:

“I didn’t think we were a very hard team. I didn’t think we stood over a lot of pucks. I didn’t think we won a lot of battles along the boards. I didn’t think we were competitive enough in a lot of areas.”

“When I look at the trip as a whole, we had some key, key people really under-perform on the trip. Significant minus numbers, not hitting the score sheet. It can’t always be the [Leon DraisaitlTaylor Hall line] that provides that.”

It’s fair to suggest that last one was directed at Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle.

Nugent-Hopkins has just two points and zero goals in his last five games, with a minus-8 rating. Eberle is pointless entirely, and also at minus-8 over the same stretch.

They’re hardly the only Oilers not pulling their weight at the moment, however. Edmonton has lost 15 times in its first 25 games, a figure that suggests there are more problems that just a couple of underachieving forwards.

Just ask McLellan, who all but admitted his team has issues matching up.

“We’re not where we need to be,” he said. “We’ve got work to do as a team, work to do as an organization to get bigger, stronger, harder, and physically win more battles than we lose.”

Roy: Avs ‘need, expect more’ from Varlamov


The tough times continue for Semyon Varlamov.

After another unsuccessful outing on Monday — allowing four goals on 27 shots in a loss to the Islanders — Varlamov was subjected to a familiar refrain: Patrick Roy saying the Avs need more from their No. 1 netminder.


You can hear all of the head coach’s comments in the video above but, for brevity’s sake, here’s the Varlamov stuff:

“It’s not easy for him. Obviously we need that extra save and we didn’t get it on the road. It’s hard to win if you’re giving four goals on the road.

“We just need more from him. He’s our No. 1 guy and we’re behind him, but we need, we expect more from him.”

There has to be serious concern about Varlamov right now, if there wasn’t already.

His save percentage through seven games in November (.891) is marginally better than it was through seven games in October (.889), and that’s not the only alarming stat. Varlamov’s yet to record a shutout this year, yet to record back-to-back victories and has given up at least three goals in six of his last seven starts.

Not good.

Compounding things for Colorado are the standings. The Avs are now 9-14-1 and mired in the Central Division basement, meaning that — if they have any hope of going on a tear and getting back into playoff content — they’ll need to do it soon.

Which means they might not have the time, or the patience, for Varlamov to find his game.