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Frolov: Kings Enigmatic Star

by Rich Hammond / Los Angeles Kings
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Two games, against the same opponent, approximately five months apart, have framed Alexander Frolov's season.

On Oct. 17 against Columbus, Frolov made a terrible offensive-zone pass that led to an odd-man rush and a crucial game-tying goal. Three days later, having drawn the general ire of the coaching staff, Frolov was made a healthy scratch.

On March 8 against Columbus, Frolov scored a goal, assisted on three others, played a dominating game at both ends and was the game's "first star." After the game, Frolov earned glowing praise from head coach Terry Murray.

There can be no better microcosm of Frolov's season or, perhaps, his entire seven-season career with the Kings. Alternately dazzling and puzzling, Frolov is a proven 30-goal scorer who yet, after all this time, still seems to have something to prove.

Frolov, entering Wednesday's game at Chicago, has 16 goals in 64 games, only half of the 32 goals he scored last season. But Frolov, in his last four games, has three goals and five assists and has arguably been the Kings' best player.

"I feel pretty good right now," Frolov said, "and overall, as a team and as a line (with Jarret Stoll and Brad Richardson), I think we've got some chemistry going and we're doing the right things. We're trying to play in the offensive zone as much as we can and score as much as we can, and we have scored some goals so far."

Some team followers have theorized that Frolov is playing with a monkey removed from his back. The subject of unfounded trade rumors for more than a year -- mostly because he's due to be an unrestricted free agent his summer -- Frolov was never in danger of being moved, but he still had to deal with the almost-daily rumors.

"If Gretzky can be traded, anybody can be traded," GM Dean Lombardi said. "But to think that I’m just trying to get rid of this guy, there’s no chance. This is still a good player. To think that we were out there trying to shop this guy, it’s ridiculous."

Frolov said he wasn't particularly nervous about the trade deadline, but was still relieved not to see his name atop any news releases last week.

"It's always good when it's over," Frolov said. "Even if you don't really worry about it, something can happen, but it's a part of the game and every year it's the same thing. It wasn't something new for me. Every year, there are some rumors going on, but I think I got used to it."

Who is Frolov? For almost a decade, coaches, team management and fans have been trying to completely figure that out. Intelligent but shy, Frolov generally keeps his thoughts and emotions inside, making him a difficult player to figure out.

Is he the guy who seems to be impossible to knock off the puck, or the guy who seems to float through some games? Is he the guy who often laughs and jokes with teammates or the guy who sometimes seems aloof on and off the ice?

Maybe he's both. Frolov, it seems, is like the neighbors you don't really know. You smile and wave hello in passing, and admire their cars and lawn, but in seven years of close proximity, you've still never seen the inside of their house.

With Frolov, many have tried. Lombardi famously read "War and Peace" in an attempt to understand Frolov better. Murray held frequent meetings before finally, frustrated by Frolov's lack of communication, benching him.

Incidents such as those have led some fans and team followers -- and even his coach -- to suggest that Frolov might not "buy in" to the team concept as well as he should, that, to put it bluntly, he might not care as much as other players.

Perception, though, is not always reality. Frolov, in interviews, talks about his desire to make the playoffs. He deflects praise to teammates. He never -- even after being scratched -- complains or questions his role within the team.

Continue to Part II.

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