Coming into the 2016-17 season, I expected that Thomas Chabot would be impressive enough that he would crack the NHL roster and stay with the team for the whole season. The Senators didn’t think so, and he spent one more year in the QMJHL.
In the fall of 2017 though, I was more confident that he was good enough to be in the NHL after developing in junior for two seasons and becoming one of the best players in the league. He didn’t begin the year in Ottawa, but ever since the end of November he has been a mainstay. Slowly but surely, he’s making his way into the league.
And honestly, there’s no reason why he should be sent back to Belleville.
While his results in his 18 games so far aren’t overwhelmingly great, he’s proven that he’s a capable defender, which is a definite improvement over a few other defensemen on this roster.
Through those 18 games, Chabot has two goals and five assists, with three of those assists coming on the powerplay. To go along with those, his CF% is only at 48.57%, but because Ottawa is such a poor possession team, that is actually good enough for a +2.44% relative corsi, which is 9th on the team.
Whenever he has been given powerplay time he has made the unit look much more lethal, and even if his 5v5 play isn’t where it will ultimately need to be, it’s nice to know that there is another weapon on the blueline.
These goals weren’t on the powerplay, but I mean, just look at these beautiful shots:
Guy Boucher has given Chabot the third most powerplay time amongst defensemen behind Erik Karlsson and Dion Phaneuf, as he’s essentially a Chris Wideman replacement in that sense. He still doesn’t have a ton though, as he’s played about exactly half as many games as everyone else, yet if you doubled his 30:35 of PP TOI, it would still be behind Alex Burrows and Phaneuf, ranking 11th overall.
It’s no secret that his offensive ability is what makes him a special player, and for a team that has struggled on the powerplay for a long time, more Chabot could solve a lot of their problems.
Another thing I like about Chabot’s play is that he only has one minor penalty this season, which is incredible for a defenseman. Out of 226 defenseman who have at least 200 minutes this season, only 18 have either one or zero minors, and considering how frequently defensemen take penalties compared to forwards, I like seeing how disciplined he has been.
The last thing I want to see more of is the Senators penalty kill, anyway.
And without sounding too much like a Cody Ceci fan from a few years ago, Chabot definitely has the skills to be very good in this league, but I would like the results to be more convincing. I like what I see when I watch him play, but the numbers leave something to be desired.
The raw 5v5 corsi looks good enough on the surface, but all of the adjusted numbers are much worse. His adjusted corsi is 45.45%, and his adjusted xGF% is 39.85%, which is...not pretty. That poor xGF% is probably due to the fact that he has an incredibly high offensive zone start rate of 66.67%, while the rest of the team ranges from 41-58%. It’s clear that Boucher still doesn’t fully trust him for defensive responsibilities just yet.
Furthermore, I’d like to see him shoot more as I was surprised to see that he was 19th/23rd on the team in individual shot attempts per 60 at 8.23. Of course, defensemen are going to have fewer chances, but he’s only ahead of Johnny Oduya and Ben Harpur amongst their defensemen. I’m not worried about his long-term ability to create chances, but I want to see more from him in that department.
I wish I could also ignore his WOWY chart, because it makes it seem like when he plays with Erik Karlsson he’s simply along for the ride:
The black boxes indicate Chabot with player x, the red boxes are x player without Chabot, and the blue boxes are Chabot without player x, and it’s clear how big of an impact Karlsson has on him (boxes with 65). It’s not the greatest sign that all but one of the blue boxes (Chabot without player x) are on the negative side, but that may have to do with the fact that some of his teammates simply aren’t very good.
For example, if instead of Karlsson he’s playing with Oduya or Ceci, then I don’t blame him for having poor possession numbers. So I’d take that graph with a grain of salt considering some of his poor teammates and the small sample size, but I’m not exactly thrilled with those results.
Even with some horrible performances on the backend from Chabot’s teammates and some positive signs from him, he is still averaging the 7th most ice time per game amongst Senators defensemen. Only Mark Borowiecki and Chris Wideman have averaged less per game, and the only times Chabot has gotten more ice time is when the game has gotten out of hand.
I’d love to see Boucher start to trust him more and at least take away some of Oduya’s minutes, because it’s not like Oduya is providing a solid presence, nor is he in the team’s plans for next season. I understand that he can make same mistakes in his own zone and that’s why he doesn’t get those tough minutes, but he can easily make up for it with his transitional and offensive ability.
Even though Chabot’s play hasn’t been perfect, there’s literally no downside to keeping him in the lineup every single night the rest of the season. The playoffs aren’t happening, and the Senators need to see what they have with some of their young players, and they need to know if Chabot can be a consistent top-four presence next season.
Looking ahead long-term, I still really like what they have in this player.