The Senators Handling of Thomas Chabot is a Head-Scratcher

Sending Thomas Chabot back to Junior isn’t necessarily the wrong decision, but the way they dealt with the situation is strange

Yesterday it became official: the Senators sent Thomas Chabot back to the Saint John Sea Dogs of QMJHL.

We could sort of see this coming over the past week or so, considering he could not even get into the lineup after poor defensive performances exhibited by the team. It certainly is not the end of the world that he will go back to Junior, but the way that Ottawa handled the situation is a head-scratcher, and I don’t think they did themselves any favours.

At the end of the day, I am not going to pretend like I know for a fact that Chabot would have been a good player this season. I believe he would have made the team better, but it’s impossible to be 100% sure with a 19 year old rookie. Having said that, I don’t understand why they wouldn’t at least see what he can do.

Some will say that he gained a lot of experience, and that practicing with the team and just being around professionals will help him next year. That is all true, but you know what else helps with experience? Playing in actual games. Of course his time in Ottawa was not a complete waste, and Chabot agrees:

“I don’t think it was a waste of time. The coaches have a lot of experience and I took advantage of that and in practice I was working on a lot of things. After practice, some days I stayed an extra 45 minutes just to practise on my game. So when I look back at the past month, I really learned a lot. I don’t think I wasted time here. I really enjoyed my time here.”

I am not trying to say that he should not have been here in the first place, but if you keep him with the team, you might as well play him for nine games before sending him back. I really wonder what the team thought of him at the end of the pre-season, because if they thought he was not good enough to play in the NHL this year, then they should have kept Fredrik Claesson with the team. If they just wanted him to get experience, then at least play him more than 7 minutes of ice-time as a 7th defenseman.

Ian Mendes says that the decision was made about 10 days ago, so they pretty much knew he was never getting into the lineup:

In truth, the club was ready to return him to his junior club 10 days ago, but they headed out on an extended road trip to Western Canada and wanted to carry an extra defenceman in case of an injury. To the critics who are suggesting the organization mishandled their prize prospect, Dorion says Chabot’s game improved during this stint with the Senators – even if he only appeared in one game.

The most worrisome thing about the handling of Chabot is that Guy Boucher believes that there is not any defenseman in the current top-six that deserves to be taken out of the lineup, even for a handful of games. I really love what Boucher has done with the team so far, but to suggest that the defense is all of a sudden fixed is just false.

I’ll give credit where credit is due: Mark Borowiecki and Chris Wideman have actually played better than most 3rd pairings typically do. Borowiecki is even first amongst Senators defensemen in corsi, with Wideman second! But let’s not pretend like Borowiecki is an integral part of the defense who can never be scratched. Furthermore, Dion Phaneuf and Cody Ceci have been a massive disappointment so far, so if you want to send a message, then maybe you sit Ceci and move somebody to the right side temporarily.

I understand that people are wary of rushing prospects because of what has happened to Ceci and Curtis Lazar. But I am not criticizing their decision to send him back, I am criticizing their refusal to play him and properly evaluate how he plays in the NHL. Furthermore, the Ceci and Lazar comparisons don’t mean much because every prospect develops differently.

At the end of the day, we will never know if Chabot would have helped the team over the course of the entire season. If they had cut him after getting his nine game tryout, then fine: he had an opportunity. But with seven minutes of ice-time, he never even had a chance to prove himself.

This would not be much of an issue if the Senators had a defense corps like the Nashville Predators, but as we all know, it has been a problem for years. I get that the team needs all the points they can get and that giving ice-time to a rookie is “risky,” but so is playing any bottom pairing defenseman. Plus, nobody really knows how well he can play in the NHL, because there is essentially no sample.

Chabot will probably be with the team the whole year next in 2017-18 and I think he can be a key contributor. This year it was always going to be a lot to ask for him to even make the team, so sending him back is not terrible. But there was no apparent downside to playing him the 9 games, and in the long run the Senators will have their defensive struggles with their current six.

The fan in me was excited to see a shiny new player come into the lineup, but sadly we’ll have to wait another year to see him full-time. I’m sure he’ll dominate in the QMJHL and hopefully he can come back even better.

This move isn’t egregiously bad on the Senators, but it is just strange.

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