CALGARY – There shouldn’t have been a 14-person scrum around Michael Frolik Monday morning.
The veteran utility player shouldn’t have been the focal point of a pre-game skate setting up a New Year’s Eve game against San Jose that will determine the Pacific Division’s top team.
However, Frolik became a talking point because of a tweet out of left field (California actually) from Frolik’s agent, Allan Walsh, making a dubious suggestion Flames coach Bill Peters has it in for his client.
“Many people in Calgary have been reaching out asking why Michael Frolik is a healthy scratch,” Walsh tweeted on Sunday, after Frolik sat out Saturday’s overtime loss to Vancouver.
“Keeping one of the teams [sic] most efficient and versatile forwards in the stands marginalizes and devalues a great team player. Head coach’s attempt to run a good player out of town?”
This, quite frankly, is what Walsh does.
The colourful power agent throws grenades, leaving everyone else to deal with the shrapnel.
It’s his way of trying to shake up situations his clients aren’t happy with.
So let’s start there.
Clearly this didn’t necessarily come out of nowhere, as conversations between Frolik and Walsh have undoubtedly included plenty of disappointment on Frolik’s end.
He has every reason to be unhappy with the way his season has gone, having lost his spot on the second line alongside Matthew Tkachuk and Mikael Backlund he was so effective with the last few years.
Reduced ice time and a month-long injury, sandwiched between a pair of healthy scratches, would disappoint anyone.
However, as the ultimate team player, the selfless Frolik would never have rocked the boat publicly.
Walsh did it for him, whether Frolik knew it was coming or not.
“I don’t want to comment on any of those things,” said Frolik Monday, never one to seek attention.
“If you have any questions about that you can reach my agent and he’ll probably tell you more.”
Walsh did not return a text Monday, letting his tweet speak for itself, which is perfectly acceptable.
What Frolik didn’t dodge is his obvious discontentment.
“Yeah, obviously when you’re scratched a couple times and don’t have that much ice time …” started Frolik, who has played under 11 minutes in almost half his 22 games.
“I know my role was probably going to change this year when I came here. There’s a few new bodies, but I didn’t expect it was going to change that much.
“Obviously it has been frustrating, obviously with the injury too. Those things happen, but it sucks when you work hard in the summer and then you get off for a month and you can’t do much.
“It takes a few games to get the flow again and hopefully I get a chance to do it tonight.”
Predictably, Peters shook off questions about the tweet, saying, “I have no response.”
The irony of it all is that the intended response of Walsh’s tweet was achieved: Frolik will return to the second line tonight against San Jose.
Yet, you can bet that infuriating Flames management with a tweet seen as a needless distraction isn’t what prompted Frolik’s return to the lineup and promotion.
Peters simply wants to help spur on Frolik, just as he did Game 6 when he followed up Frolik’s first healthy scratch in years with a return to the second line.
The 30-year-old Czech winger responded that night with two goals and was the game’s first star.
Three games later he was back to third- and fourth-line duties, albeit also as one of the team’s top penalty killers.
Since then Frolik has been handed a mish-mash of assignments, which have included playing on either wing and on all but the top line.
While he played a big role in forming the team’s top shutdown line the previous two years, the Flames’ addition of significant depth this year has made his nomadic existence completely justifiable.
The manufactured portion of Walsh’s tweet is the suggestion that people from Calgary wondered about Frolik being a healthy scratch Saturday.
Nobody questioned it.
The team has so many options and Frolik had just played two games after coming off a high-ankle sprain that sidelined him for 15 games.
The coach didn’t see what he wanted out of either of Frolik’s 10-minute outings and inserted Austin Czarnik into the lineup instead.
“He’s missed a lot of hockey and when you miss that much time with that type of injury it takes time – you don’t get the same guy back right away. That’s just the reality,” said Peters.
“When you’re a guy coming back off injury you’ve got to come in and get re-established again.
“When you miss time it’s hard – the league doesn’t slow down. We need him 100 per cent and that’s out of everybody in our lineup.
“We wanted to play (Czarnik) that night so somebody has to come out. There’s tough decision to be made each and every night.
“Nobody is happy when they’re not in and you don’t want them to be happy.”
In the fourth year of a five-year deal paying him $4.3 million annually, the defensive-minded Frolik has seven goals and no assists in 22 outings.
“He’s a guy with a good track record in the NHL, who scored some big goals for us here early,” said Peters.
“Then again he’s missed a lot of time. Our team has played well, with or without him.”
There’s the key.
Although beloved in the room, he’s not a central figure in Peters’ surging club.
He’s a competent, respected role player on a team with plenty of options.
The only one who might be looking to get Frolik out of town is his agent.