When he signed with the New York Rangers last summer for what was considered at the time a modest $3 million sum, former Los Angeles Kings winger Alex Frolov told Russia’s Sport-Express that a deciding factor in his signing on Broadway was the promise he’d receive significant playing time and most likely play on a line with Rangers’ offensive leader Marion Gaborik.
Fast forward four months: Gaborik has missed nearly half of the Rangers 29 games due to injury and the 28-year old Frolov has found himself relegated to the Rangers fourth line with fellow Russian Artem Anisimov and tough guy Derek Boogard, playing under ten minutes per game in four of his last six contests. Frolov’s lack of ice time coincides with a lack of productivity: the five-time 20 goal scorer has only five goals and 11 points in 29 games, and just a single tally in his last 12.
It was with all that in mind that Sport-Express reporter Vasily Osipov approached the Moscow native following the Rangers home-and-home series with the rival New York Islanders last weekend, looking to understand whether Frolov’s demotion was a result of a conflict with Rangers head coach John Tortorella, or simply the logical outcome for a struggling player. A frustrated Frolov rewarded him with an honest account of his dissatisfaction with the current situation and news he’d approached Tortorella to discuss it days before. A translation of their conversation is provided below.
Update 6:20pm: Andrew Gross asked Frolov about the interview at practice today. You can read Frolov’s comments in Gross’ blog, Ranger Rants.
- A quarter of the season has past. How would you assess your game?
- I’ll start with the team: So far it’s performed pretty well, we’re holding on to a playoff spot. However, right now I’m not playing enough. And I don’t like that at all.
- What’s happened that in recent games you’ve been moved to the humiliating fourth line with the goon Boogard?
- A couple of days ago I initiated a private conversation with our head coach, [John] Tortorella, during which he claimed that he has nothing against me personally, and is simply trying to find some new [line] combinations. He said that the distribution of playing time depends only on that.
- Is it possible to speak about a conflict between you and Tortorella?
- There is no outright antipathy.
- What aren’t you happy with?
- It’s absolutely unacceptable to me that that I spend 7-8 minutes a game on the ice, especially on an energy line. It’s just not my game, which I told the coach candidly. But there are no personal problems between me and him. I’m not a quarrelsome person. Even in our recent conversation there was no swearing or raised voices. Nobody blamed anyone, we simply discussed the situation. The coach promised that soon everything will change, I just need to be a little patient and work harder in practice.
- Could you say that still haven’t fit into his system?
- In the first few games it was indeed difficult.
- What in particular didn’t you get?
- Torts gives wingers completely different tasks, making them work more on defense. In comparison with the tactics of Los Angeles, where I spent the previous seven seasons, it was very unusual. However I’ve already adapted now to the new system [and] begun to understand the head coach’s requirements. And he seems satisfied with my performance on the ice. Or so he says at least. He promised that in the near future he’ll give me more playing time. We’ll see what happens.
- Did you present any particular complaints to Tortorella?
- To me they’re still not completely clear. He asks that I shoot on goal as much as possible at every opportunity, even from the corners. But yet he demands that I loiter in front of the net, blocking the visibility of the opposition’s goaltender. I’m trying to readjust.
- Everyone knows that Tortorella loves power forwards like Prust, Callahan or Boyle who literally burn everything in their path. Maybe he doesn’t like that sometimes you don’t play with enough aggression?
- As a matter of principal, I don’t skate by an opponent when there is an opportunity to play the body. I don’t think that’s the main problem.
- Is it possible to build any parallels to what occurred to you last year in Los Angeles?
- I don’t want to compare the two situations yet. It’s a long season, everything could still change.
- But you haven’t thought about a trade?
- Not yet. I really hope that after my conversation with Tortorella something changes. But if everything stays the same, then I’ll start to think [about it]…
Osipov also spoke to Frolov’s current linemate Anisimov about the pair’s demotion to the fourth line and his relationship with head coach Tortorella:
- Why have you and Frolov found yourselves on the fourth line?
- It think you have to ask our head coach about that. We, as hockey players, need to go out on the ice and give two hundred percent. Only your play can prove that you’re entitled to more playing time.
- But does Tortorella have any complaints with you?
- He hasn’t presented any to me individually. And there have been no personal conversations about my play.
- Frolov told me in an interview that he had a private conversation with the coach…
- I haven’t talked to Sasha about that, so I can’t say anything. Personally there are no conflicts for me. I just try to do what the coaching staff demands of me. That’s all.
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