It seems lately that many Toronto Maple Leafs fans have been down on Swedish defenseman Jonas Frogren. I have seen more than one post on the Leafs fan boards calling Frogren a "bust signing." This needs to be discussed, as I disagree greatly with the negative opinions on Frogren. I can't help but wonder if these fans have actually paid attention to what he brings to the Maple Leafs.
First of all, Frogren was brought to the Leafs to fill a particular role-as a physical, defensive-minded player. He was not brought here to score points, so there will be plenty of nights when his name isn't called much, or where he just doesn't stand out. For a purely defensive player, this is not always a bad thing. In my opinion he has filled his role nicely for the Toronto Maple Leafs. As far as being a physical presence, consider this: Jonas Frogren is second on the Leafs in hits, and he has only appeared in 9 games. Luke Schenn is the only player who has more hits than he does, and Schenn has played in almost twice as many games. His hits aren't small either. Frogren is capable of laying bodies out on the ice, and he has shown that he can rough up opposing players in his own zone. If the Maple Leafs are going to tighten up their defense and lower their goals-against ranking, they are going to have to utilize this element of Frogren's game much more often. That means no more scratching him from the lineup every other game, and limiting him to the 3rd pairing when he does play. With Mike Van Ryn injured, the Leafs might benefit from giving him much more ice time.
Personally, I would like to see the Maple Leafs place Jonas Frogren on the second pairing with Luke Schenn, and try that out for a couple games. That could prove to be a very effective shutdown pair, and one that the Leafs could use to wear down opposing forwards later in the game when fatigue starts to set in. Both players like to hit, and hit hard. Not to mention that pairing would be very effective at blocking shots. Jonas Frogren is absolutely fearless when it comes to putting his body on the line for his team. Whether he is brave, or just plain crazy, Frogren is not afraid to throw himself into the shooting lane and stop the puck at all costs. The Leafs would be foolish to not take full advantage of this craziness, especially at a time when they need to figure out a way to stop letting the puck in their net.
One argument I have heard against Frogren's play is that his plus/minus rating is bad. While this is true, its important to remember that this can often be a misleading stat. It is a measure of the entire line that is currently on the ice, and not always reflective of an individual's level of play. For the record, both Luke Schenn and Pavel Kubina are minus players. Most of the time, those guys are solid in their own end. Schenn leads the team in hits and Kubina leads the team in blocked shots, so their defensive play is not reflected accurately in their minus ratings. I believe Frogren's play is not accurately reflected in this stat as well.
The Toronto Maple Leafs as a team have simply loosened up in their own end. They need to find the tight defense they had earlier in the season, and one way to do that might be to switch up the defensive pairings and experiment a little. With Mike Van Ryn out, the Toronto Maple Leafs can certainly afford to give a defensive minded player like Frogren much more ice time. Since weve been allowing 4 or 5 goals a game recently, we really dont have anything to lose. So I say give the Viking his chance. Make him a regular on the Leafs second pairing, and the bodies will start to fall. Hopefully, so too will the Leafs goals against.