Back in October, I went to see a Red Wings road game in Sunrise, Florida. I got there early enough to explore the arena a bit and managed to get right down by the glass for the warm-up. As the clock was winding down, there were only two players left on the ice: Dylan Larkin and Martin Frk. Frk was standing at the top of the circle and taking passes from Larkin. Frk would wind up, as we’ve seen him do on so many powerplays this year, and – WHACK – wire the puck at the net. It never hit the twine, instead flying wide or over the net and crashing into the boards.
Once, twice, three times, Frk let loose that massive slap shot, never coming into contact with the net. The ice was void of any players and Larkin was drifting towards the door. The Zamboni had to come on to clear the ice for the start of the game. Frk insisted on more passes. It was one of those funny player quirks – he didn’t want to get off the ice until he hit the net. Larkin fed him one more puck and Frk wound up. WHACK! Missed the net again.
Nobody actually knows how hard Frk’s shot is. It’s never been clocked. But it’s hard enough that Griffins’ Head Coach Todd Nelson has said that it’s one of the five best he’s ever seen in 25-plus years. It’s so hard that Nelson would instruct his screeners on the powerplay to get out of the way when Frk was shooting.
Members of the opposing team have no such luxury. Just ask the Tampa Bay Lightning’s Dan Girardi, who went down to block Frk’s shot in the second period of Sunday’s game at Little Caesars Arena. Girardi dropped to a knee, turned his head, and the puck came in contact with the back of his neck. Girardi fell to the ice, motionless.
“That was one of the scariest things I’ve ever seen in hockey,” Lightning head coach Jon Cooper later said to The Athletic’s Craig Custance.
Luckily, Girardi was okay, but the incident sparked a debate on Twitter when the NHL Network’s Patrick O’Sullivan tweeted that Frk is a safety hazard because he has no idea where his shot is going.
Frk has no idea where he is shooting the puck. Every game he almost kills someone and he just hit Girardi in a bad spot. Guy is a safety hazard.
— Patrick O'Sullivan (@realPOSULLIVAN) January 8, 2018
The tweet incited ire from Red Wings fans and Czech hockey fans, who quickly came to the defense of the young shooter, but O’Sullivan maintained that opposing teams and Frk’s own teammates are wary of playing the net front role due to their uncertainty of where his shot is going to land.
This got me thinking about the accuracy of Frk’s shot. Is its direction really that unpredictable? I’ve certainly seen Anthony Mantha, Tyler Bertuzzi, and Justin Abdelkader all in great pain as a result of being hit by it, but is that normally what happens or are they simply outliers? I decided that I needed to dig deeper into Frk’s shooting habits.
Frk doesn’t get a lot of ice time. Through his 33 games played, he’s averaged 10:49 per game. Per Corsica, Frk has played a total of 346.73 minutes, with 267.25 (77%) of them coming at 5v5. It’s important to distinct this, because Frk is meant to be a powerplay specialist, where he can man the blueline and unleash his shot.
At 5v5, Frk has taken a mere 21 shots, but is shooting at a rate of 4.71 shots on goal per sixty minutes. This is dead last among team forwards. He’s also recorded 40 shot attempts, for a rate of 8.98 Corsi-For per sixty. This is better only than Luke Glendening among team forwards.
Looking at 5v4 is where Frk’s shooting really gets interesting. When he’s on the ice, the whole point of Detroit’s powerplay is to get him the puck and let him wail it. In his 62.38 minutes at 5v4, Frk has 34 shot attempts and 17 shots on goal, which would give him a rough accuracy rate of 50%. His 32.7 iCF/60 and 16.35 SF/60 are second on the team, behind only Tomas Tatar.
Frk’s shooting location is about where you’d expect it to be. He leans heavily on the left side of the ice, both at 5v5 and 5v4. Check out the following from hockeyviz.com:
On the top, we see that at 5v5 Frk still gets most of his shots from the left side of the net, but he gets more shots from in the slot area and even some in close on the right side too. It indicates that he’s not using his slapper that much at 5v5, since he’s likely taking snap shots or wrist shots in close. At 5v4, the majority of Frk’s shots come between the blueline and the top of the faceoff circle, which is exactly where the coaching staff wants him to be shooting from.
Like most players, most of Frk’s shots are either slap shots, wrist shots, or snap shots. Unlike most players, Frk leans heavily on his slap shot. Of the 48 shots on goal he’s taken this year, 24 of them were slap shots (50%), 10 of them were snap shots (21%), and 11 of them were wrist shots (23%). The remaining 6% were backhand shots and deflections. So he’s leaning heavily on his slap shot.
In terms of missing the net, NHL.com has got a total of 25 missed shots recorded for him, with 3 of them going over the net and 22 of them going wide. This, I believe, is where his teammates get concerned. With that many shots missing the net, they aren’t only at risk standing in front of the net. They’re at risk of being hit beside and behind the net, too.
Frk had a great start to the season as he scored three goals and four points in the first four games of the season. Funnily enough, his first two goals came at even strength and were not the monster slap shot we expected of him. It wasn’t until the fourth game, against the Arizona Coyotes, that Frk scored on the powerplay exactly how they drew it up: a slap shot from the top of the circle.
Frk’s managed 8 goals so far this season, 4 of which have come on the powerplay. What I find interesting about his goal scoring is that only two of his goals have come off of slap shots (25%), his most dangerous weapon. That’s an 8% slap shot shooting percentage. The rest of his goals have come off snap shots (3 goals for a 30% snap shot shooting percentage) and wrist shots (3 goals for a 27% wrist shot shooting percentage).
So despite his slap shot being his most powerful weapon, Frk has only scored 25% of his goals off of them. The majority of his scoring is off of snap shots and wrist shots.
So what does this mean? Well, we know that Frk relies heavily on his slap shot to put the puck on net, but he’s scored fewer goals off slap shots than any other type of shot. The NHL doesn’t provide data for how many missed shots have been recorded by shot type, but I’d wager a guess that most of Frk’s 25 missed shots have come off slap shots.
This explains why his teammates are wary of standing around the net when Frk is winding up. Only 50% of his shots hit the net and most of those are likely the snap shots and wrist shots. When he winds up for a slap shot, nobody knows where it’s going to go.
The best thing that Frk can do is continue to work on his accuracy. If he gets more of those shots on net, which would naturally translate into more goals, then teammates won’t mind risking their bodies in front of the net. According to Helene St. James, Frk does work on his accuracy in practice, so I’m hoping that the next time I get to take in a Red Wings warm-up, Frk will be able to leave the ice much quicker.
And for the love of God, somebody please clock that shot!