Thomas Chabot’s Case for the Canadian Olympic Team
Should Thomas Chabot be making the Canadian Olympic team?
The 2022 Winter Olympics are just two months away, and countries are beginning the process of naming their rosters. Hockey Canada still has about a month to name who they would like, but as Doug Armstrong said on November 19th, “80-90%” of players have already been decided behind closed doors.
Somebody who might be in that extra 10-20% is Thomas Chabot of the Ottawa Senators.
Chabot has never been a lock for the Olympic team, and in fact, I’d ultimately be happily surprised if he does get the call. But that doesn't mean he doesn’t deserve it, because Chabot is absolutely one of Canada’s eight best defensemen at the moment. The problem is that he doesn’t have the reputation that some others do.
Back in November, Craig Button, Dave Poulin, and Darren Dreger shared who they think will make Team Canada. Chabot didn’t make a single list, which I found quite surprising considering Drew Doughty and Josh Morrissey were on there once each. Also in The Bleacher Report’s latest projection in November, Chabot was the final cut. So he’s anything but a lock, and will probably end up playing as a 5th-8th defenseman if he does make it.
The interesting thing is that a large portion of hockey fans online thought he was good enough back in September and also a few weeks ago. @JFreshHockey on Twitter had fans vote in a poll who they would choose for Team Canada, and both times, Chabot hovered around 50%, which was enough to keep him in the top-8 (since there are two spares). Here are the results from September 3rd:
Here's the 2022 Team Canada Men's Olympic Roster as voted by you.— JFresh (@JFreshHockey) September 3, 2021
And here are the results on November 23rd:
Who should be on Team Canada at the 2022 Olympics?— JFresh (@JFreshHockey) November 22, 2021
You voted. Here are the results:
Chabot actually moved up to 6th in votes amongst defensemen despite dropping 5% in overall votes. He’s still comfortably ahead of Darnell Nurse and Devon Toews who are on the outside looking in. The fact that thousands of people voted him in both times speaks to his better reputation amongst fans than amongst certain analysts, although JFresh’s audience is mostly very analytical, so it makes sense that they would be voting a certain way.
But does Chabot actually have a good statistical case to make it? Certainly.
Coming into last night, he ranked 5th amongst defensemen in GAR (goals above replacement) at 6.8 according to Evolving Wild. GAR is an all-encompassing stat that is similar to WAR in baseball where it measures players’ offensive, defensive, and special teams contributions. It’s obviously imperfect, but it’s still a great indicator of player performance. For reference, he is on pace for 22.46 GAR, and his best season was 2018-19 when he had 15.9. A 22.46 GAR season would be the 2nd best amongst defensemen in the past 4+ seasons. You can’t always extrapolate like that in a smaller sample of 23 games, but it’s incredibly impressive nonetheless.
In addition, JFresh’s model isn’t quite as high on Chabot this season, but it still has him in the 85th percentile in overall value:
That mark is actually below Shea Theodore (99%), Devon Toews (98%), and Adam Pelech (97%), but it’s ahead of Morgan Rielly (81%) and Darnell Nurse (25%), which would still put him on the roster, albeit potentially as an extra.
His 0 goals and 12 assists in 24 games doesn’t look elite, but points are a terrible indicator of how well a defenseman is playing. He has 3.53 expected goals, and if you watch him play, you can tell he is the offensive catalyst most of the time. That doesn’t always mean he ends up with a point on the play though. Even in general, he’s averaged 47.8 points per season, which is very solid considering the lack of talent around him.
Then in terms of other players vying for spots, it’s an interesting mix. For starters, the top four vote-getters in JFresh’s poll are right-handed (Cale Makar, Dougie Hamilton, Aaron Ekblad, Alex Pietrangelo), so if they want to go with a mixed balance of lefties and righties, Chabot has an easier time going against Shea Theodore, Morgan Rielly, Adam Pelech, Darnell Nurse, and Devon Toews. It’s no guarantee that they go for that mix though, which would make things more challenging. Plus the reality is that all of these players are phenomenal in their own right, so it would be foolish to say that not having Chabot is ridiculous.
Now, there’s never an Olympic team that picks all of the best players. There are always some strange picks mixed in there, and Canada is no different. Furthermore, because Canada will have an incredible amount of offense already, they might opt for a more defensive-minded defenseman. And that might even end up being a good call in terms of roster construction.
So while it seems likely that Chabot is one of the best eight Canadian defensemen, he might not make the team simply because of how they want to construct their roster. At the end of the day, I’m not going to lose any sleep over whether he makes it or not, and neither should you. However, it sure would be fun to watch Ottawa’s best player represent the best hockey team in the world on the biggest stage. Who knows if Chabot will ever get a chance later on or if the NHL will even go to the Olympics again, so this might be his best shot.
If Canada wants to pick the best players to represent their country, Thomas Chabot has to be on the roster. But we know that’s not always the case.