Title: Senators Top Kraken / Scapegoat: The curious case of Thomas Chabot
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Guest Writer: Matthew Moxley (aka Gord_Wilson_2.0)
The Senators won a wild affair in Seattle by a score of 5-4 improving their record to 7-3 in their last 10 games and remaining very much in the wildcard race for the final playoff spot. The game was far from clean as the Senators jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first to only find themselves down 4-3 in the 3rd period. Claude Giroux was rewarded for his strong play yet again tying the game in the 3rd period. Debrincat would get a lucky bounce late in the game for the ultimate winner.
The Senators will take on the Vancouver Canuck on Saturday in what should be a winnable game before facing very tough matchups against Calgary, Edmonton, Colorado, Toronto, Pittsburgh, and Boston in the next week or so. A stretch that will likely determine their playoff fate for this season.
Scapegoat: The curious case of Thomas Chabot
If there is one thing synonymous with the Ottawa Senators (or any team for that matter), it’s the notion that there always seems to be a player labelled as a scapegoat. Deserved or not, players that have worn this label have been the likes of Jason Spezza, Cody Ceci, Jared Cowen, and Nikita Zaitsev.
Recently, Thomas Chabot has now taken the torch for this undesirable tag. Thomas Chabot is the 14th highest-paid defenceman in the NHL making $8 million per season which expires in 2028. He shares the ranking with Brent Burns, Jacob Trouba, and John Carlson. It is interesting to note that Chabot essentially replaced Erik Karlsson upon his departure from Ottawa who is the NHL’s highest-paid defenceman at 11.5 million dollars per season which also expires in 2028.
It’s no secret that Chabot gets a lot of ice time. He sits 5th in the NHL in ice time averaging 25.31 minutes per game. Avalanche star Cale Makar leads the NHL with 26.42 minutes per game. Of the top 15 defensemen in ice time, Chabot ranks 11th in points with 35 and 10th in powerplay points. When you rank NHL defensemen purely by points, Chabot is 24th in the NHL overall and 16th in powerplay points. Of the top 15 defensemen in ice time, Chabot ranks 3rd in penalty minutes. Lastly, as arbitrary as +/- can be, it’s worth noting that of the top 15 defensemen in ice time, Chabot ranks 14th at -12. Seth Jones leads the way in the group with -21.
A common argument for Chabot is that he would be more productive should his ice time be reduced. If you use Chabot’s current stats and rank them against the defenceman in the NHL who rank 16-30 in ice time, which ranges from 24.06 to 23.20 minutes per game, in that group Chabot would be 6th in points, 2nd in powerplay points, and 4th in penalty minutes. Interesting considerations.
Going over the traditional stats and using ice time as a guide, they are not terrible, but they are not great. They are kind of in that “meh” range. While Chabot plays a lot, other defencemen play major minutes as well and have similar/better/worse production. That being the case, using the shield of ‘Chabot plays too much’ isn’t something I particularly buy.
The Eye Test
Purely from an eye test, this season, Chabot has struggled overall. His offensive instincts seem just a bit off. His timing and decision-making when in the offensive zone always seem slightly delayed. Opportunities for one-timer/quick shots and passes are sometimes squandered due to overthinking. There are stretches where he looks good, but it has not nearly been consistent enough. If his timing and instincts improved, I don’t doubt Chabot could rank higher in points and power play points.
On the defensive side of things, an old saying in the NHL is that when you don’t notice a defenceman, he is playing well. Far too often you notice Chabot making critical errors. Being 3rd in the NHL for the top 15 defensemen in ice time for penalties is a reflection of Chabot being caught out of position against the opponent. Only Hamonic has more penalty minutes for defencemen on the Senators. What is noticeable is that Chabot has never had more than 42 penalty minutes in a season, and he has already surpassed that with a quarter of a season to go. No defenceman will go penalty-free throughout a season, but seeing Chabot minimize these numbers would be an improvement.
Understandably, Chabot has not had a consistent partner all year. Chabot has played with several different partners which creates difficulty to get chemistry. With the addition of Jacob Chychrun, the Senator's top-4 defence should be solidified. With that addition, there is direct hope for an improvement in Chabot’s game and to reduce his ice time so he can be more effective. I am not sure reducing ice time will dramatically improve everything discussed above but I do think a player of Chychrun’s quality, will add to the offensive numbers and improved defensive play as you will move the likes of Hamonic, Branstrom, Holden, etc down the depth chart where they belong, which ultimately should make Chabot look better overall.
Chabot’s 14th-ranked 8-million dollar-a-year contract when you look over everything is not as bad as one would immediately think. Especially, with salaries increasing with the overall cap not increasing at the same rate. With that said, With Jake Sanderson up for contract in 2024 and the addition of Chychrun, Chabot may move down the depth chart for Senators' defenseman to #3. It wouldn’t shock me that Chychrun could be the number 1 guy in the 23/24. Sanderson’s development has been nothing short of remarkable this season and should that trend continue for another 2 years, you have a strong top 3 core on the blue line. However, in a salary cap world, you might enter a world where you are paying $8 million a season to a guy who is your 3rd best d-man. Is that something the Senators want to get into? Of course, this is all speculation on development but considering some question marks on goaltending and the depth of this team, Chabot might garner a nice package to address some holes or two.
Some teams that ended up winning the Stanley Cup and had seemingly immovable players walk to free agency or traded include teams like the Capitals and Mike Green, the Avalanche and Matt Duchene. So, it’s not as inconceivable as one would think. If the Senators cannot win it all in the next year or two, the discussion of moving Chabot might get much more traction.
I am curious about the thoughts surrounding Chabot. Have your say in the comments!
Thanks for reading!