It is no secret that I have been a huge supporter of Viktor Stalberg since getting glimpses of his god-given talents for the sport of hockey. I have made numerous comments on how his speed is unmatched, adding that he could very well be the fastest thing on skates since, well, ever. His Cap hit is at a meager $875 K, and his production last season was nothing to laugh at. While playing minutes on every line except for the power-play, Stals hit the back of the net 22 times, and tallied 43 points. And that is just the tip of the iceberg for what is possible with his skill.
Frolik came into the NHL with some really big shoes to fill. He was a well anticipated talent that had many scouts looking in his direction. While he started out well, his production in terms of points began falling soon after, which brought him eventually into the hands of the Hawks. Again, with big hopes, we all watched as he fell into one of the worst slumps a player can have, which saw him notch only 5 goals this year. Yep, it was bad. But, can we blame that production on Fro alone, and what is his potential?
These 2 players hold a lot of power as to how well the Hawks will play next year (and are also the subject of big trade talks), and they were not even close to the top in the category of ice-time. Hell, Fro had to watch Scott log minutes while he wasn't even dressed for games. And yet, he was arguably the best player on the ice for the Hawks during the playoffs. Wish I could say the same for Stalberg. This might say something to the large scheme of how players were used, but it sure as heck speaks to the skills Frolik possesses, and the possibilities if he figures out his scoring touch just a bit.
To see some doubting Stalberg's return to a Hawks uniform, and making suggestions for his trade, makes me cringe a little. Stalberg is the least of the Hawks worries, and one of the few players I have no question is above being traded. Stalberg was maybe the best forechecker on the Hawks this year (Frolik in the playoffs), using his speed to his advantage. His puck-possession abilities saw large improvements, as he offered up his speed and size as an issues to any opponent, and quite frankly, the Hawks were in the right end of the ice when Stalberg was out there. You can hear this sentiment repeated among many other hockey blogs. In his first season with the Hawks, Stalberg had not yet learned to control his speed, but he showed just how dangerous he can be with the puck this year with countless drives to the net.
Sure, his hands are like rocks at times, but puck handling and shooting are the main areas that forwards improve on once in the NHL. You can teach and practice these things, you cannot teach speed and size. And, I seem to remember Stalberg controlling the puck for long moments of time later in the season as his confidence began to improve.
Stalberg was the only player to log over 25 points without any coming from a power-play, and he ranked 2nd on the team with 6 game winning goals. Add in his size, and the 91 hits he logged, with his CORSI rating (3rd best on the team), and yes, I think we will be watching him notch close to 4o goals this coming year. Stalberg scored the vast majority of his goals in the slot area, which also proves a worth on the power-play, and makes mention to the improvement of his puck handling. There is no other player on the Hawks, including Toews who is as much as a single handed threat when he receives the puck. Frankly, it seems that when he gets the puck, whether or not it ends up in the net is up to him, and no one really has the speed to tell him otherwise. I have not seen a player with this ability since Pavel Bure, who was IMO the most skilled goal-scorer of all time. All because he learned to puck handle while moving at a speed no one else could match (not an easy task).
With some consistent ice-time, and roles to play, I think both of these players will see huge increases in production. Between the 2 of them, I would put my money on at least 30 goals added to the mix. That right there, is a difference maker. The way they play though, rather than the goal production we will see is why I think they are integral to the big picture SB is working out. They are both quick, are skilled forecheckers, move the puck well through the neutral zone, and play well in the corners.
There is reason to question Fro's scoring hands, but you can't question his work ethic or contribution to the team game when on the ice. He does everything right, and this will eventually get him out of the slump to end all slumps. He can kill penalties pretty well, which was needed all year, and along with Stalberg, is one of the best forecheckers on the team.
The problem, as it is with the whole team, will be the coaching and whether or not Q decides to start using his players right. As mentioned, Stalberg saw ice with every single line this year, and Fro had the same experience, with the added bonus of going from top six to watching from the stands. In my perfect view of the team, Frolik most likely finds a consistent home on the 2nd or 3rd line depending on a few things. If he is planted here, without pressure to score, and just do his thing, the Hawks will get what they saw from him in the playoffs on a consistent basis.
With Stalberg's $875 K and Fro's $2.3 M cap hits, the bang for the buck is pretty awesome. If I were Stan, I would be making an offer to Stals this summer. Get him wrapped up for the next 3 years to a fair amount before he becomes too expensive next year. As for the trade possibilities, I can understand the thought, and Fro could make a nice little package. Given what we have seen from him in the playoffs, 2 years in a row now, I wouldn't be so quick to lose a guy who can show up when the going gets tough.