Sunday, March 31, 2013

Frkwatch: Playoff Update and Regular Season Thoughts

My seats for Game Two vs. Saint John. Not pictured: Frk scoring half a dozen goals, the chunky kid who ruined 75% of the photos I tried to take.

It's been a while since I updated the blog or made an attempt to post. While traffic soared during January and February thanks in large to a lot of good posts, I was incredibly busy with life in February and March, and got quite ill the last few weeks with some kind of bizarre chest cold that sapped the life out of me. I'm on the mend but between work and life it's been hard to maintain some kind of consistency in terms of writing. Kudos to the fellas at Winging it in Motown for keeping things interesting the past few weeks. If you don't already participate in the game threads like I do from time to time, you should join in on the shenanigans. All your favorite WIIM guys are there acting silly. Sometimes JJ gets stern but someone has to, otherwise we all go insane.

Special shoutout to Graham Hathway for a rather controversial post about the now-signed Daniel DeKeyser. While some disagreed that missing the boat on signing DeKeyser would be a miserable failure, Graham had some excellent points in the article he wrote and the comment section about his value to the Red Wings. What was more interesting about the article Graham wrote was the bizarre assault "GallopingGreg" attempted on Graham and his analysis. It was a real treat to see the Red Wings community throttle Graham's would-be nemesis. He didn't have a leg to stand on at any point and it's a beautiful thing to see the community come together to dispatch a troll. Anyway, please send your love to Graham over at Winging it in Motown or Twitter. He's Canadian, which instantly makes him more likable than all other Red Wings fans. Just kidding. Sorry.

Time to get down to business. The QMJHL regular season ended recently and it was a very interesting final 20 games or so for the Moosehead, as Nathan MacKinnon got injured near the end of the season and while he's back now, there was concern the team would struggle without him. Enter Marty Frk. In the month of February, Frk played in 11 games, scoring 11 goals and 20 points with a plus/minus of 10 and 14 PIM. In March, Frk played in 9 games, scoring 4 and registering 11 points with a plus/minus of just +1 and 8 PIM. Frk finished the regular season with 56 games played, 35 goals, 49 assists, 84 points, a plus/minus of +31, 84 PIM, which was all good for 13th in QMJHL scoring. Frk was quite impressive in the final three months of the season, matching the creativity of his linemates and future first round draft picks Nathan MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin.

I was able to attend a couple of games in the final months of the regular season and I had a few follow up thoughts to Frk's impressive scoring run at the end of the season. The biggest lesson learned from Frkwatch is that Frk possess that rare game-breaking ability that generational forwards like his idols Jaromir Jagr and Sergei Fedorov have. Marty Frk is the kind of player who can take over a game and use his offensive prowess to frustrate and stifle defenses and goaltenders with a blistering shot and his uncanny ability to find open ice. He has a real nose for the net and finding the right place to be when it comes to scoring. Junior hockey is one thing but Frk always looked out of place with the Moose, if only because he already knows how to play the offensive weapon role he is most suited for. Obviously his development required him to "grow up" in junior, but he possesses an offensive maturity that fueled both his game and MacKinnon and Drouin's throughout the season. That line was lethal whenever it was on the ice.

Unfortunately, Frk's strength is also his biggest weakness: his ability to make the game all about him caused some trouble when it came to penalties. Early in the season, Frk struggled to get into form due in large part to the leg injury he sustained late in the summer. Frk's "double tap" skating method (which I covered earlier in the season), caused him to very slowly leave the offensive zone and lag behind very slowly on backcheck. This backchecking improved drastically as the season went on, but Frk's tendency to take stupid penalties, namely retaliatory ones, never faded. A lot of this is mental maturity: it's hard to be critical of a nineteen year old kid bound for the NHL, but rather than pretend this player has no flaws, I'll lay it out there as I see it. Frk may be able to take over a game, but his tendency to pester defenses and retaliate when they use their physical frames to push him around is a glaring weakness in his game.

The 84 PIMs are an early warning sign of a particular attitude on the ice. No, Frk isn't a whiner or a diver or the kind of player who won't own up to his mistakes. Frk is intense. He wants the puck and wants to lead the forecheck and he wants all passes directed to him. I would argue this nature is precisely the kind of aggression Fedorov and Jagr expressed during the early years of their career, before defense became a top concern. Frk has that special nature and while it comes with a propensity to draw dumb penalties, that immaturity will wain in time as Frk learns to play a two way game in Detroit. At the very least, the lack of defensive responsibility will be hammered out of him in Grand Rapids, where he will no doubt spend the next two seasons.


The "Frk Yeah" saying will no doubt be abused by Red Wings fans for years to come (provided he isn't traded for an overpaid defensemen) and has already become a regularly occurring rally cry on Winging it in Motown's game threads. Halifax Moosehead fans have been saying "Frk Yeah" for a few years and were going crazy at the Metro Centre on Friday March 22nd when the playoffs began for the QMJHL. Frk kicked off the playoffs with a show of his skills, scoring a Moosehead record five goals and three assists for eight points with a plus/minus of 4 in an 11-1 thumping of the Saint John Sea Dogs. Frk finished the four game sweep with six goals and four assists, good for fourth among playoff scorers in the Q League playoff scorers. He's tied with teammate Johnathan Drouin, for what it's worth. Here are the highlights of the game:

The eight point night is the perfect example of what Frk is capable of when he takes over a game. I was there for the second game where the Moose eaked out a one goal victory. Frk was all over the ice trying to make the offense run. Unfortunately Frk had a blank score sheet but had 5 shots on goal. Here are a couple of pictures and a video I took at the game:

Frk during a faceoff, probably thinking about how soon he can replace Mikael Samuelsson. Photo courtesy of PG Marsh

On the forecheck. He's always the last man to leave the zone. You can tell he loves to backcheck. Photo courtesy of PG Marsh.

As the Moose wait to commence their second round matchup against whatever ragamuffin team ekes out a win to face them, there's time to reflect on the strength of their opening round win. Kudos to Saint John goaltender Sebastien Auger for trying to keep his team in Game Two, but holy crap did that kid ever get hammered in goal. The second round is going to be slightly more difficult for the Moose, so expect more 4-1 or 5-2 scores. Can Frk keep up the production and lead the Moose to the Memorial Cup? Stay tuned to Frkwatch.

In the meantime, if you want to talk more about the Mooseheads (Meesehead?) please drop a line in the comment section, or shoot me a tweet at my Twitter, @wizofozblog.

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