“The CH has completely ended my career in the NHL”

One would think that all the players of the 2020-2021 edition of the Canadiens have, despite the pain of the defeat in the grand final, a favorable opinion when they think back to this season which will have surprised more than one.

But no.

For one of the actors in this finalist edition, the negative quite easily outweighs the positive when he dives back into his memories. His name: Michael Frolik.

Now playing for Lausanne HC in the Swiss first division, the 33-year-old striker, who signed a contract with CH at the dawn of last season, is very heartbroken about the way he was handled by the team. Despite everything, he agrees to open up and confide in TVASports.ca.

His disappointment and frustration, even several months after his association with the Habs ended, is evident. His words, delivery and tone of voice speak for themselves.

« The Canadiens literally ended my NHL career. »

This leaves no room for interpretation and… which sets the tone for the rest of the interview.

« I have often pleaded my case in front of the coaches »

On December 23, 2020, Frolik agreed with CH on the terms of a one-season contract valued at $750,000.

The Czech came to Montreal with a record of 159 goals and 225 assists (384 points) in 850 NHL games. He also had a Stanley Cup conquest on his resume in 2013.

Historically, we knew he was capable of bringing a little offensive, but his role, over the years had quietly migrated to the numerical disadvantage and deep tasks. It was exactly with this in mind that he landed in the metropolis… believing that he was going to play there.

The story, as we know today, was very different, however.

“It was an extremely difficult year for me. In fact, I still don’t know why the Canadiens made me sign a contract. When the club submitted its offer, I was made to understand that there would be a position waiting for me. But the executives signed Corey Perry right after. I already knew the team was tight on the payroll, so I was like, ‘oh, that’s not good’.

“Then it was the start of an endless merry-go-round. A player was injured, then a skater was recalled, but it was never me. I often went to the coaches office to plead my case, but was constantly told that I was not playing because of the salary cap. That was all they knew how to tell me, it seems! I said to them: « ok, but exchange me, in this case! ». They didn’t want to hear anything. »

Frolik finally only played eight short games in a CH uniform. Even today, he finds it hard to believe. Worse still, he thinks that the Montreal formation directly contributed to the end of his career in the Bettman circuit.

Note that the St. Louis Blues had invited him to their training camp this season, but ultimately chose not to retain his services.

“When you don’t play for the season, it’s hard to keep up the pace and find yourself a team the following season, by the same token. I know what I could have brought to Canadians. I am an experienced guy and I came with good intentions and an interesting background of skills. But the team just never gave me any opportunities. Oh, she gave me eight games. But on a fourth line during unimportant games. Yes, I can tell you that I am angry with the CH. No one likes to be left out repeatedly. The team literally ended my NHL career. »

The skater adds that an element contributes to increasing the level of frustration that animates him. Before arriving in Montreal, he had 850 games. He now has 858. But he firmly believes that he could have reached the mythical plateau of 1000 if the team had treated him differently.

« It’s always been a goal to play 1,000 games in the NHL. But I still have to play about 150 games – the equivalent of almost two seasons. It’s a lot of hockey and with the season I had last year, I don’t think I can go back to the NHL… »

Photo credit: Martin Chevalier / JdeM

Frolik, however, tries to see the bright side of things and he succeeds in this especially when he looks at all that he has accomplished in the past.

“I’m disappointed, but if I had been told at the start of my career that I would play 850 professional matches, I would never have believed it. I am proud of what I have done. I had a great life as a professional hockey player. I lived sublime experiences including, of course, the time when I was able to lift the Stanley Cup.

Marked by two players in particular

As frustrated as he may be with the leaders of the club, Michael Frolik nevertheless claims to have only good words to say about his former teammates.

When asked which ones have marked him the most, his answer is immediate.

“Carey Price comes in number one, obviously. What he’s accomplished in the playoffs is just amazing. We knew that no matter how tough the situation was, Pricer was going to make the stop and get us out of trouble. It was a very pleasant feeling. In fact, I had never seen such a performance in my life from a goalkeeper. He was in a rather special area. So calm and collected…

“Shea Weber also marked me a lot. He was a really good captain. In the locker room, he always found the words and he knew how to put everyone at ease. Having faced him often when I was playing in the west, he is clearly the most difficult defender to face in my opinion. And I saw several of them, rears!”

Captain: two potential candidates

The reference to Weber opens the door to a rather obvious question.

If he had to choose the successor to No. 6 as captain, who would he turn to, he who still shared the same dressing room as most of the team’s players?

“Gallagher has been with the team for a long time. He knows the market. He works hard and is highly respected internally. I believe he would be a very good candidate. Otherwise, Josh Anderson is also a very committed player who has the respect of other guys. He would also make a good captain.

For the Czech striker, it is clear that the absence of several key players is directly responsible for the current problems of the team.

« It must be remembered that the club is currently playing without its number one and star goaltender, without its captain and without Paul Byron, who is a very big player on the ice even if few people talk about it. »

Photo credit: Archival photo, Martin Chevalier

Frolik added that Shea Weber’s leadership was of high quality and should not be overlooked among the possible causes of the club’s current rout.

“Weber’s situation is a real game-changer. A big guy like him knew how to set the record straight when needed. This band is really tight knit. All the guys are here for the right reasons. There is no problem internally, but Webby is a big piece.

As of today, Montreal has won only three of its first 12 games. Frolik, however, is optimistic about the future.

“All teams go through tough streaks. For CH, it happens at the start of the season this year. But I believe that everything will recover quickly.”

Complimentary to Suzuki and Caufield

Michael Frolik, during his time in Montreal, was also able to see Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield up close, two young players who, according to many, represent the future of the Canadiens.

Asked about them, the left winger was both complimentary and very reassuring.

“Suzuki deserves the big contract they recently signed. He’s so smart, so clever. To be frank, I had never really heard of him before I joined the club. But I quickly realized how good he was. For me, it is clear that he will become the first center of the Canadiens. And for a very long time.

“Caufield meanwhile moved from college to NHL playoff hockey. You have to understand that what he has done in the playoffs is fantastic. Cole is a special player. His shot is one of the best I’ve seen in my career. He also has extremely fast hands. He is at his best when he moves his feet. I know he was sent to the Rocket, but expect to see him again soon in Montreal. Cole Caufield will be a big star for the Habs. Everything in its time. »

Happy in Switzerland

It is from his apartment in Lausanne that he has been living for a short time that Michael Frolik delivers his moods. If his resentment towards the Habs is obvious, we feel very serene and happy when he talks to us about his new life.

Since the beginning of October, the Czech has been playing for Lausanne HC, with whom he signed a two-year contract. How does he adapt to this new European reality?

“The city is very pleasant. I had only heard good things about Lausanne before my arrival and I am very happy so far. Water and mountains as far as the eye can see… Impossible not to feel good! I have two children who stayed with my wife at our Florida home, as my oldest is starting school this year. We will operate like that this year and we will see for the future.

Usually very disciplined and calm, Frolik doesn’t need much to be happy. Gradually, he found his bearings in Switzerland and built a new routine.

“Usually we play on Fridays and Saturdays and we have free time during the week. So far, I have taken the opportunity to find accommodation and get used to it quietly. I heard that Switzerland has several beautiful golf courses. That’s good, because I love this sport! It’s a bit cold to play right now, though… Otherwise, I like to do some strength training and eat good meals. Take care of me. »

Photo credit: Lausanne HC

On the ice, the former CH currently has five points in seven games, including three goals. Ironically, he plays on a trio completed by … two former players from the Canadiens organization.

“I currently play with Jiri Sekac and Phil Varone. We complement each other well so far! The ice is bigger in Europe and that’s a big change for me. The league is full of fast players and the tempo is quite high. But I appreciate it all.”

Frolik concludes the interview with a most evocative sentence.

“It’s very nice here, because I have a lot of ice time. I play on the numerical advantage, but also on the numerical disadvantage. I often finish my games with 8:00 p.m. on the ice. It’s good to feel the confidence of the coaches. It’s been a change from the last few seasons… »

One wonders who was targeted by this last statement…

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