Expectations and Alex Chiasson
Elevated expectations are nothing new for Alex Chiasson
Young players have always been traded for veteran stars in the NHL. The ensuing narrative has become part of hockey convention over the years. The star leaves in search of a contending team, a Cup win, and that ring that will complete his career. The young player feels the enormous pressure of playing in the shadow of an established player, a long time star in the given city.
One of the more prominent examples of this convention at work was when Wayne Gretzky was traded to Los Angeles for a variety of pieces and some cash. The key player in the package sent to Edmonton was a 20-year-old forward named Jimmy Carson, the second overall pick in the 1986 draft. As an 18-year-old in the NHL, Carson notched 37 goals. In his sophomore season, he topped the 50 goal mark, finishing with 55 on the season. But early in the 1989-1990 season, he demanded a trade out of Edmonton, in part because of the pressure of being traded for Gretzky.
Jason Spezza is not Wayne Gretzky. Alex Chiasson is not Jimmy Carson.
Compared to that blockbuster trade from a quarter century ago, expectations are somewhat muted for Chiasson. But there are still expectations to contend with. From fans who expect something great because of the trade, to proving those who have already written him off as a not quite young enough, not quite talented enough player exposed by not quite good enough possession numbers, Chiasson has a lot at stake in 2014-2015.
He dealt with expectations in Dallas. In his first stint in the NHL during the lockout shortened season, Chiasson scored six goals in his first seven games. To start the 2013-2014 season, his first full campaign in the NHL, Chiasson was aware that many in Dallas expected him to build off his hot start. A joke in the Dallas locker room in preseason captured some of the hype:
The exercise - poking fun at how expectations can get out of hand - involved a simple word problem:
If Alex Chiasson scored six goals in seven NHL games last season, how many goals would he score over 82 games if he scored at the same rate?
"70.2857," someone answered after doing the math on his iPhone calculator. "A little pressure."
"Not happening," Chiasson said, shaking his head.
His hot start in 2013-2014 did nothing to quiet those expectations. He scored a goal in each of Dallas first three games to start the season and nine points in his first nine games. Things slowed for Chiasson after that nine-game stretch; injury and illness hampered his production. And now, a season later, he once again faces expectations. The expectations Chiasson faces in Ottawa differ from those he faced in Dallas. Though he's a relatively inexperienced NHLer, one incident in particular last season provided him with the perspective to handle the pressure and expectations of playing in Ottawa. Rich Peverley's near death experience on the Dallas bench last March shook the hockey world. But it was harder on his Dallas teammates and Chiasson in particular. Chiasson missed the following Dallas game, but was back in the lineup after that. Chiasson never needs to be reminded that there are more things to life than hockey.
But inside the game it's a new start, a new city, and new teammates. Inside the game there are questions about his game, his role, his potential. There's much at stake for Chiasson this season.and the Senators need him to deliver.