The second major addition to the Flames for 2015 and beyond, Michael Frolik, is an astute pickup. Mike has discussed the man himself, and his impact on his linemates – but who would benefit most from playing alongside him?
The problem with assessing where he might fit is that he is so good at so many different roles. He plays second line minutes, he has a second/third line points output, but he contributes towards a first line-worthy CF60 and CA60. You could easily slot him into any of the first three lines and he wouldn't look out of place.
1. Leading the Children
Now, the idea of splitting up the magic line from 2014-15 might sound ludicrous, but it may be an avenue worth exploring.
Adding the possession beast that is Frolik to the top line may help address some issues that the top line had with puck retention last year. This could lead to more chance creation, and could lead to Monahan and Gaudreau improving on their already impressive tallies. It could also improve Frolik's point production, as Monahan and Gaudreau are already very good players who will create a ton of chances for him.
The downside, of course, is splitting up the line that created golden moment after golden moment last season.
2. The obvious choice
This looks like the best option. You have Backlund, who is a genius workhorse; a touch of the rookie magic we saw from Bennett in his first few games for the Flames; and add Frolik, who does a lot of the dirty, "unsexy" work, while still putting up good numbers – particularly in the assist column – and you have the foundation of a very good second line.
Backlund has been around the Flames long enough now to be considered a locker room veteran, so he would be able to pass that experience on to Bennett. Meanwhile, Frolik would do a lot of the leg work, making the job for the other two considerably easier. Again, Frolik's past influence on his team mates would lead to improved possession numbers for Backlund, while also being a good influence on Bennett.
There's no particular downside to this line. It seems a good fit and the players would compliment each other well.
3. Experience and exuberance
If the Flames were to get the Micheal Ferland that ran roughshod over the Canucks in round one of the playoffs on a regular basis, then he’ll be a scary sight to behold this year. The same is true of Jooris – if he continues his superb first year into his second, he’s going to be a key part of any success the Flames have this year. The thing is, they are both fairly inexperienced in the NHL. They have a grand total of 104 career NHL games between them, while Frolik already has 550.
The experience Frolik would bring to both men, as well as the previously mentioned possession attributes and points production, could bring the young pair on even further. He could easily have a Hudler-esque effect on both.
The only problem with this idea is that it seems a waste of Frolik's talents. He clearly plays at a second line level, and only getting third line minutes would not be fair to a man who is better than that.
The obvious, and most likely, result is that he will join Backlund and Bennett on the second line. That is the level that he has been playing at, and where he would seem to be the most effective.
That said, reasonable arguments could be made for him playing on any of the top three lines. It's why we as fans aren't paid to make these decisions – Bob Hartley has that task.
As was said with Hamilton though, having these kind of selection headaches is a lovely problem to have.
by Liam McCausland