|Alexander Frolov will be benched for tonight's game.
The Kings' season-long road trip did not end well for Alexander Frolov. What it means for Frolov's future with the Kings remains to be seen.
Kings coach Terry Murray made Frolov a healthy scratch for Monday's game against the Dallas Stars. In an interview after the morning skate, Murray severely and publicly took Frolov to task, not only for his play but for his attitude and lack of team play.
Murray said he had been unhappy with Frolov's play for several games and that the situation reached an apex Saturday night, when Frolov's turnover late in the first period led to a game-tying goal in a game Columbus went on to win 4-1.
"I haven't been happy with Fro's game for several games," Murray said. "The game the other night is the straw that broke the camel's back, in my opinion. The turnovers, the careless play...It has to be better, and you have to come out with that high level of intensity, with smart work, hard work, and you've got to love the game.
"You've got to love the game in order to be a player. The talent is there, but it always is the work that brings out talent. And I need more."
Frolov, who had been the left wing on a hybrid checking/scoring third line with center Michal Handzus and right wing Wayne Simmonds, has one goal and four assists in eight games. Last season, Frolov led the Kings with 32 goals and had 27 assists in 77 games.
Murray's comments indicated a bigger problem than simply Frolov's play. Asked what Frolov's response was to the benching, Murray paused for several seconds, then said, "There's nothing coming back. That's the 10th meeting along those lines, and nothing ever comes back. So, I don't know."
Asked if that type of lack of communication was a problem for a coach, Murray said, "That's been going on for seven years," referring to the length of Frolov's tenure with the Kings. When it was suggested that Murray was not the first coach to deal with this type of situation with Frolov, Murray said, "No, I'm not. Not the first coach, not the first GM and not the first in line in any one of those categories. Teammate. It's got to get better. You've got to buy into the team."
General manager Dean Lombardi, who has often talked publicly about needing to see more consistent play and a better attitude from Frolov, said he supported Murray's decision and said, somewhat cryptically, that the Kings would "go in another direction" if Frolov didn't respond the way they deemed necessary.
"When a player with ability is not performing to the best of his ability, it's not only him that you're trying to get going," Lombardi said. "You've got to be aware of the message it sends to the rest of your team. Is this going to be acceptable? This is what I think a coach confronts, there on the front lines. Everyone is seeing it, but mainly the teammates are seeing it. And if that's going to be accepted, then they're going to think it's acceptable. And it's not.
"As far as how you handle it, you see how he responds, and then we make our decisions accordingly. We're going in the right direction. He's either going to get on board or we'll go in another direction with him. It's as simple as that. I like a lot of the things I'm seeing, with what we're trying to establish here. Get or board, or there's another way too. But like I said, this is not a knee-jerk reaction."
Frolov was not available for comment after the morning skate. A request to interview Frolov before or during the game was made.
LEWIS ALSO OUT
In a much-less controversial move, Murray also decided to scratch Trevor Lewis and return Brad Richardson to the lineup.
Richardson missed Saturday's game against Columbus, as he was one of the players suffering from flu symptoms. Richardson said he felt substantially better after a day of rest Sunday and felt ready to play.
"The health is improving," Murray said. "(Head athletic trainer Chris Kingsley) checks in with everybody. No phone calls in the middle of the night to him, and he says that's a very good thing. I spoke with quite a few players as they arrived (at the morning skate) this morning and they slept through the night, getting better, feeling stronger. So we're getting ourselves through it."
RICHARDS ALSO OUT
After the morning skate, Dallas coach Marc Crawford said forward Brad Richards would miss the game with a sore groin. Richards had a team-high nine points in seven games.