Tag: Michael Frolik

Anaheim Ducks v Winnipeg Jets - Game Three

It’s Winnipeg Jets day at PHT


Using the term “close sweep” might start a brawl at the wrong Winnipeg bar, yet it feels like a reasonable depiction of the Jets’ first-round exit.

Whether you agree or disagree about their margin of defeat against the Anaheim Ducks, the bottom line is that if you trace the Jets’ history back to the Thrashers era, the franchise remains at zero playoff wins all-time.

Yes, as in they haven’t ever won a playoff game not a series.

Despite that doom and gloom, Jets were a popular dark horse candidate heading into the 2015 postseason for a reason. They were an impressive possession team by most metrics.

Winnipeg combined an increasingly deep defense corps with its underrated high-end forwards to scare at least a few Western Conference observers. Hey, they even occasionally received competent goaltending, albeit from an uneven mix of Michael Hutchinson and Ondrej Pavelec.

(There was some poetic justice in Pavelec playing out of his mind down the stretch to get them into the playoffs.)

It all feels empty thanks to the sweep, but the Jets zoomed up a level or two in 2014-15. As wild card berths go, Winnipeg can point to some positives.

Off-season recap

The biggest change technically happened during the season, yet the Evander Kane swap is significant enough to at least get a quick mention.

It’s relevant enough to the summer anyway, as Drew Stafford played well enough to gain a two-year deal that carries a $4.35 million cap hit. Stafford is sticking around, while a surprise return is in store for Alex Burmistrov, who went on a two-year KHL sojourn.

Michael Frolik headlines a group of departing players who helped move the needle a bit depth-wise, also including Lee Stempniak, Jiri Tlusty and T.J. Galiardi.

Maybe the most significant off-season storyline is what Winnipeg did not do: Dustin Byfuglien and captain Andrew Ladd are currently entering the final season of their respective contracts.

Report: Prospect Ehlers mulling Swiss league if he doesn’t make Jets

Nikolaj Ehlers

Nikolaj Ehlers will be one to watch at Winnipeg’s training camp this fall.

Ehlers, the Jets’ first-round pick (ninth overall) at the 2014 draft, is reportedly open to playing in the Swiss league should he not make the Jets roster out of the preseason, per news agency Sportinformation.

More (courtesy Swiss Hockey News):

“I honestly do not think about this now,” the 19-year-old Dane says to the Sportinformation. “But Switzerland is at the top of my list if I’m not going to play in the NHL in the upcoming season.”

As Ehlers is still too young for the AHL and another year in the QMJHL would not make any sense for him, playing in Europe would be the best solution.

Ehlers is coming off a dominant Quebec League campaign — 101 points in just 51 games — but isn’t big (5-foot-11, 176 pounds) and will be in tough to crack a Jets team with good depth up front. While the forwards Michael Frolik, Lee Stempniak and Jiri Tlusty are all gone, Alex Burmistrov is back from Russia and some other youngsters, along with Ehlers, will push for just a handful of spots.

“It’s going to be tough coming back here and trying to get that spot on the team,” Ehlers told NHL.com this summer, during Winnipeg’s prospects camp. “There is a lot of excitement, and I think that on the ice there are a lot of things I can improve on, and I’m going to try to do that this summer.”

It makes sense that Ehlers would target Switzerland in the event he doesn’t make the Jets. Aside from having little to prove at the junior level, he has experience playing in the Swiss National League A — during the ’12-13 campaign, he appeared in 11 games for HC Biel.

Calgary Flames ’15-16 Outlook


For the most part, there should be optimism in Cowtown.

After a great ’14-15 campaign in which they exceeded all expectations, the Flames had themselves an equally successful summer. GM Brad Treliving struck the perfect chord of adding to his upstart team without sacrificing youth or prospects; Dougie Hamilton came aboard at the expense of three draft picks while Michael Frolik joined in free agency, much like Karri Ramo, who was brought back to recreate last year’s successful goalie tandem with Jonas Hiller.

The Flames didn’t lose much, either.

Spare veteran parts like Raphael Diaz, David Schlemko and Brian McGrattan walked in free agency, and with good reason; the postseason emergence of youngsters like Micheal Ferland, Sam Bennett and Tyler Wotherspoon made the older guys expendable.

The real excitement in Calgary, though, is the prospect of putting everything together. Up front, the dynamic trio of Johnny Gaudreau-Sean Monahan-Jiri Hudler will be back for another go-round, only this time they’ll have depth behind them: Frolik, a full season of Bennett, a full season of Mikael Backlund (remember, he missed 30 games last season) and a real wildcard in Ferland, who showed flashes of being a havoc-wreaking power forward in the playoffs.

On defense? Imagine if that all comes together too. Adding Hamilton, getting Giordano back, building off the excellent playoffs from T.J. Brodie, Dennis Wideman and Kris Russell — the Flames could have one of the better bluelines in the Western Conference.

So yes, Calgary certainly has momentum heading into ’15-16, but momentum can be a fickle thing. Especially when you’re trying to carry it from one year to the next.

What the Flames won’t have going for them is the element of surprise. It’s fair to say they snuck up on some few opponents last year, especially during their 17-8-2 start, but that’s unlikely to happen again. They’re a tough out, and the rest of the NHL now knows it. Upon being introduced to the Calgary media in July, Frolik, the former Winnipeg Jet, acknowledged part of his reason for signing in Calgary was recognizing how good the team was — and will be.

“With me and Dougie, I think that [expectations are] just going to be higher and higher,” he explained, per the Herald. “With what the guys did last year, the goal is for sure to make the playoffs.”

Calgary will also likely need to improve on its puck possession and shot-based metrics — we touched on that earlier today — but those improvements have a good chance of happening thanks to the new roster additions, and the maturation of incumbent youngsters.

Put it all together, and it’s easy to see why the organization’s already thinking about another boisterous postseason in front of the Sea of Red.

“Players want to be in a good situation, they want to have a chance to win,” Treliving said. “In the playoffs, seeing the atmosphere in the building, seeing this city come alive, seeing the support and the passion that our fans have, makes players excited.”

Flames’ biggest question: When will Giordano re-sign?

Calgary Flames v Anaheim Ducks

“Everybody in this room knows what Mark means. On the ice, we all know. He’s a culture-setter for me. We plan to get to work at it [contract extension] and have done some preliminary work at it, but it’s one we want to get wrapped up real quick this summer.”

That was Flames GM Brad Treliving on May 12, shortly after Calgary was bounced from the playoffs by Anaheim.

At the time, optimism was high. The Flames had made the playoffs for the first time in five years, won a series for the first time in 11 years, witnessed a slew of young talents playing big roles and, perhaps most impressively, did it all despite losing Giordano — their captain, leader and best player — to a season-ending biceps tear in late February.

But much has changed since May 12.

For one, there was Giordano’s initial ask. Per TSN, the 31-year-old — heading into the last of a five-year deal with a $4.02M cap hit — opened at around $9 million per year. Yes, this is how most negotiations start and yes, that number will eventually be lower. But it’s still an eye-popping figure in a vitally important negotiation.

Remember, Calgary’s already spent some fairly big coin this summer. Treliving made Dougie Hamilton the team’s highest-paid player (in terms of cap hit, anyway) with a six-year, $34.5 million deal, then made Michael Frolik the club’s highest-paid forward with a five-year, $21.5 million pact.

And looking down the road, Giordano isn’t the only big contract in Treliving’s future. Sean Monahan, coming off a terrific 31-goal campaign, and Calder finalist Johnny Gaudreau will also need new deals after this season.

The good news for Calgary is there’s no cap crunch standing in the way of things. The Giordano extension will get done, but it’s easy to see why it hasn’t happened yet.

Let’s assume that, when the contract is signed, Giordano will surpass Hamilton as the team’s biggest earner. It would be bizarre for any Flame, let alone a d-man, to be paid more, especially since Giordano was considered to be a Norris Trophy frontrunner at the time of his injury; he still managed to finish 13th among NHL blueliners in scoring last year, with 48 points, despite missing 21 games.

So there’s that to figure out.

There’s also how much term the Flames want to give. For as good as he was last year, Giordano will be 32 by the time next season opens and is coming off a major injury, marking the third time in the last four seasons that’s happened — a torn hamstring cost him major time in ’11-12, and a broken ankle sidelined him for weeks in ’13-14.

Finally, there’s the timing. It stands to reason both Calgary and Giordano want the extension done before the season starts, to avoid the distraction it may cause when games start to matter.

At last check — in early July — Treliving said the negotiation was underway, after getting sidetracked by the Hamilton trade and free agency.

“Mark’s our captain and our leader, and we’re gonna work away at getting that done,” he said, per the Calgary Sun. “No update on the talks with Mark, other than it remains a priority for us to continue and work away at and get to a good conclusion.”

Looking to make the leap: Sam Bennett

Vancouver Canucks v Calgary Flames - Game Three

While some might argue Sam Bennett already made “the leap,” it’s important to remember he only played 12 games last year — 11 of which came in the playoffs.

So more of a hop than a leap, really.

Which is why we’re profiling the 19-year-old here. For all the promise Bennett showed in ’14-15 — three postseason goals, boundless energy, quality net-front presence — this is the year where he’ll try to establish himself as a full-time NHLer because, despite that stellar spring cameo, Bennett isn’t guaranteed a roster spot this fall.

“It’s still the NHL,” Flames assistant GM Craig Conroy told NHL.com in July. “There are no givens. You play bad in training camp, and that’s not good.

“[Bennett’s] mindset is he’s going to do this and this and this, but you just don’t want to feel like it’s going to be given. You want him to know he has to come and earn it. It’s earned, not given.”

Taken fourth overall by Calgary in 2014, Bennett really hasn’t played much hockey in the last 12 months. A torn labrum in his left shoulder limited him to 15 games with OHL Kingston last year, and from there he transitioned straight his 12-game stint with Calgary. Heck, Bennett was green enough to take part in the Flames’ prospect development camp last month, which further illustrated just how inexperienced he is.

“I’m still only 19 years old,” he explained. “I think there is tons that I still need to learn.”

It’s worth noting that, after last year’s impressive showing, the Flames know the stakes have been raised. Prized offseason acquisitions Dougie Hamilton and Michael Frolik have raised expectations and, at center, Bennett will be in tough for minutes with the likes of Sean Monahan, Mikael Backlund, Josh Jooris and Matt Stajan — all of whom are older, and more experienced.

That said, Bennett thinks what he showed in the postseason is proof he’s ready for a full-time gig.

“I feel like I proved myself in the playoffs,” Bennett said. “Obviously it’s not going to change the way I act or anything.

“I’m still going to work as hard as I can to make this team again.”