Ottawa Senators Report Cards: Thomas Chabot

Chabdaddy had a good season when he wasn't hurt

Ottawa Senators Report Cards: Thomas Chabot
Photo by Mak / Unsplash

Staff Grade: B, Reader Grade: B-

This season for Thomas Chabot was defined by one thing: injuries. The Sens entered the year with many praising the best top-four this team has had in over a decade. The defensive results weren't great, and while a lot of that is due to goaltending, another big problem was injuries. As this chart from HockeyViz shows us, the Sens had 40 games this season with all four of Sanderson, Zub, Chabot, and Chychrun in the lineup. That means that more than half the season was spent not playing them, and Ottawa's defensive depth was pretty terrible.

Chabot ended up playing 51 games this season, which was his fewest in a season other than when he played just 1 in 2016 before being sent back to junior. (Technically he played fewer in 2020-21, but this was the Covid-shortened season, and he played 49 out of 56 games.) After having wrist surgery during the 2023 offseason, Chabot missed all of November with a hand injury. He then missed a chunk of December with a lower-body injury that required an MRI. He had another LBI in March, came back for a couple games, and re-aggravated it later in March. Finally, he played just 6:26 in the final game of the season before leaving with an upper-body injury. Though injuries are a part of the game, it's hard to wonder how much being the team's workhorse for years, playing 25-30 minutes a game for DJ Smith as the team's only serviceable top-four defenceman, has affected his durability.

The thing about Chabot's season is that, when he wasn't injured, the results were pretty good. He had 30 points in 51 games, which is pretty good, especially considering that a lot of the top powerplay minutes went to Jake Sanderson this year. The highest-scoring d-men tend to do a lot of it on the powerplay. At 5-on-5, his results were arguably better than past years: he was offensively strong (+9% vs. league average), but was also league average on defence. It's been well-documented that he's historically been an offensive beast but a mild defensive liability; him maintaining that offensive pace while shoring up the defence is a big plus. I do wonder how much of that is due to his pairing with Chychrun, a player with a similar style, allowing them to anticipate and cover for each other.

One thing that's also nice about that offence chart is that the increased shot attempts were all over, from the point, the slot, and near the net. He wasn't just driving offence from the point. The concern on the defence chart is that spike right in front of the crease. It's unclear if this was a lack of net-clearing ability from Chabot, or if this was a tactical choice, to try to keep shots to the outside, at the risk of giving up net-front shots on the rebound.

The biggest concern in Chabot's game this season from my perspective was on the powerplay. The offence in general took a dive when he was out on the powerplay, both vs. league average but also compared to the team as a whole (-3% with him, as shown below, vs. +5% without him). I do think the powerplay went through some weird iterations this year, with the team keeping passing to the outside, and almost having a shot clock, forcing a point shot if there hadn't been a shot after five passes. You can see this in the PP chart below, where shots were either from the point or else the right circle (even more interesting they tried to feed that spot while Josh Norris was on the left side a bunch of the year). Still, whether through tactics or a change in approach, his effectiveness on the powerplay dipped.

I wasn't going to add the PK chart — after all, he only played 27 minutes — but the results are staggering. Is it possible that, with the Sens no longer needing Chabot as the one-man breakout machine, he was able to be more defensively responsible?

​The other thing I've liked looming at for these analyses is a player's impact on their teammates. Chabot and Chychrun had a pretty great partnership, with 53.7% expected goals for at 5v5 (per Natural Stat Trick), but they each dropped precipitously when separated (49.3% for Chabot without Chychrun, and 45.0% for Chychrun w/o Chabot). Even more impressive was his late-season pairing with Erik Brännström: in 240 5v5 minutes together, they had 59.1% of the expected goals. That's an incredible level of dominance. Out of 166 defensive pairs to play 200+ minutes together at 5-on-5 this season, that 5v5 xGF% was eighth-best. Before the season, people were questioning if Chabot/Chychrun made sense since the players were similar. Instead, what we saw is that Chabot tends to get his best results with similarly offence-based players, like Chychrun or Brännström. And with Sanderson likely to lead the pairing that gets the bulk of the toughest minutes for the foreseeable future, that's exactly what you want on your second pair: two guys who can feast on the slightly softer minutes.

On the whole, Chabot's season was good when he wasn't injured. Late in the season, we saw some very, very good results. His powerplay struggles are a little concerning, but are also partially reflective of the team as a whole's powerplay struggles this season. If he's healthy going into next season, I suspect we'll see a very good season from him, especially if he's paired with someone complementary. He may not quite live up to his $8M cap hit for 3 more years, but he'll still offer solid value. If he's healthy. If. After this season, you'd have reason to be skeptical.

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