Gone are the days where we look at Martin Frk in awe and hope that his mean slap shot will stun goalies in the NHL. Frk has not had an easy road. After winning the Calder Cup with the Grand Rapids Griffins, he was hoping that he’d be NHL bound to quarterback Detroit’s power play. Unfortunately, things didn’t go as planned. Frk was waived by the Red Wings at the start of the 2016-17 season and claimed by the Carolina Hurricanes who then turned around and waived him again only for the Red Wings to re-claim him. Frk spent the rest of that season in the AHL.
It wasn’t until 2017-18 when Frk got his actual shot at the NHL, playing in 68 games. It was a transition year, though. Dylan Larkin, Anthony Mantha, Andreas Athanasiou, and Tyler Bertuzzi were all in the early stages of their development. When they really came into their own, there wasn’t a spot for Frk. And so this season he got squeezed out. Let’s dive into it a little bit:
You don’t like to see too much red in these charts. On the left, we have even strength and Frk is lacking in every metric. Any line that he was on didn’t produce very many shot attempts, scoring chances, or goals. Frk is an aggressive forechecker, but he lacks the finesse with the puck to skate around other teams’ fourth lines. So the puck gets banged around the boards a lot before finally being coughed up and going back the other way.
On the right side of the chart, we have the power play. This is where Frk should be shining because of his shot. And the Wings tried to make it work. Anytime Frk got power play time, he’d line up at the top of the left circle and Mike Green would feed him as many pucks as possible. The problem with Frk’s shot, though, is that he can’t control it. Once it’s off his stick, there’s no telling where it will go.
Now, in his defense, the Red Wings power play on the whole wasn’t good. You can’t pin it’s failure solely on Frk. But this was the one part of the game that he specialized in and where he’s supposed to help out. Unfortunately, he just couldn’t hit the net.
As mentioned above, Frk’s 2017-18 season was his best opportunity to become an NHL regular. 11 goals and 25 points isn’t a bad first outing for a fourth line player, either. Unfortunately for Frk, he was out-performed by so many other players, including Bertuzzi and Christoffer Ehn. When the season was winding down, the Wings decided to give Taro Hirosi and Ryan Kuffner a shot. That, more than anything, was the most obvious thing to me for what the team’s plans for Martin Frk were.
Possession-wise, Frk was a far cry from his even Corsi-For percentage of 2017-18. Granted, he got less ice time and far less favorable deployment. That being said, as a sophomore player, you have to be able to evolve past the breaks they give you in your rookie season.
As mentioned above, Frk was an aggressive forechecker, but he just isn’t a good puck handler. His skating is just okay. On the back check, he has a hard time recovering the puck. The guy works incredibly hard, he’s just not good enough to take over the play, even at a fourth line level.
I think that Frk has played his last game as a Detroit Red Wing. This season, his ice time was cut in half and the Wings should have some promising prospects ready to make the jump into the NHL. With Frk’s contract up, I’m not sure Steve Yzerman will see the value in keeping him around on an NHL deal. Maybe he signs something to play in the AHL, but I would think that Frk will want another shot at the NHL.
If he does get another one year contract with Detroit, I’d expect his ice time to dwindle even more. He’d basically be used to fill in for an injury on an emergency basis. Frk never turned into the player we all hoped he could be, but I’ll never forget the time he destroyed Dan Girardi‘s nuts with his shot.