The Alex Chiasson enigma

Alex Chiasson is not a top six forward.

Over halfway through a season in his career as a Calgary Flame, I think that’s a pretty fair statement to make. He has 14 points – seven goals and seven assists – through 47 games, which is 13th in team scoring, behind noted healthy scratch Sam Bennett. 

The clear difference here: more is expected from Bennett than from Chiasson, even though it’s Chiasson seemingly being gifted into a top spot on the team.

Chiasson averages 14:13 a game, which is eighth out of all Flames forwards. Notable Flames below him are Kris Versteeg, Matt Stajan, and Micheal Ferland; Matthew Tkachuk only averages 14:21 a game, but he’s a rookie, so we’ll give this one a pass.

Chiasson is a .30 point per game player, good for 10th among all forwards. The only notable player below him in that stat is Ferland, who only averages 10:54 a game; if he had more ice time, perhaps he’d have scored more this season.

The only really egregious error in conflating the two stats is that Versteeg (14:09 averaged a game, .57 point per game player) should be getting way, way more minutes; certainly more than Chiasson. That’s about it.

Notice how I’m only taking “notable” players into account, because it’s hardly worth mentioning Chiasson’s ice time and scoring is vastly superior to guys like Lance Bouma, Garnet Hathaway, and the various call-ups that have graced the Flames’ presence this season. He’s far from being the worst player on this team; he’s simply the most miscast one.

He’s this season’s Joe Colborne, if you will, only without the 19.0 shooting percentage.

The linemate conundrum

Chiasson’s most common linemates this season have been Johnny Gaudreau (311:59 5v5 minutes spent with him), Bennett (231:36), and Monahan (213:53). As much as their struggles have been documented this season, Chiasson is clearly a player who doesn’t fit into the same mould they do; the only time he really exhibited that level of scoring talent was in his third year at Boston University. He’s not a high-end offensive player, and he probably never will be.

So why play him with the guys that are, or have the potential to be?

Right winger candidates for the Flames include Michael Frolik (not going anywhere), Troy Brouwer, Versteeg, Chiasson, Freddie Hamilton, and apparently Micheal Ferland. Of that group of players, Chiasson is probably only above Hamilton.

When you look at today’s projected lineup – an anomaly with Bennett out – then the solution should seem obvious enough. Put Versteeg in Chiasson’s spot, put Ferland in Versteeg’s, and put Chiasson in Ferland’s. Stajan is slightly miscast, but when Bennett returns to the lineup in all likelihood Hamilton comes out and you’re left with a fourth line of Bouma – Stajan – Chiasson (though I would argue for keeping Hamilton in and Bouma out, but that’s a different matter entirely).

Chiasson’s fourth most common linemate? Stajan, with whom he has played 164:39 – and the only other forward he’s played over 100 5v5 minutes with.

That’s who he should be with on the regular. 

Chiasson has pretty good underlyings in general – via Hockey Analysis, he’s a 52.3% 5v5 CF player (Corsica has him at 52.09% which makes him, along with Stajan, the best non-3M forwards). But out of the sample of four forwards, it’s only his partnership with Stajan that appears to be mutually beneficial – and that’s with really low offensive zone starts.

While the Flames could do some tweaking to improve their current lineup, fact is they still need at least one more impact forward. If they can get him, then hopefully that’ll be enough to push Chiasson down to the fourth line, where chances are he’d actually be really affective. He’s worth keeping around: there’s very little chance he would cost much more than his current $800k, he can play a responsible game, he drives play north, and he chips points in every now and then.

It’s just a matter of putting him in the position where he’s most likely to succeed – and getting a real right winger for Gaudreau to play with, neither of which is Chiasson’s fault.

  • BobB

    “then the solution should seem obvious enough. Put Versteeg in Chiasson’s spot, but Ferland in Versteeg’s, and put Chiasson in Ferland’s. Stajan is slightly miscast, but when Bennett returns to the lineup in all likelihood Hamilton comes out and you’re left with a fourth line of Bouma – Stajan – Chiasson (though I would argue for keeping Hamilton in and Bouma out, but that’s a different matter entirely).”

    I wrote this almost exactly about 3 days ago and everyone downvoted it. Nice.

    There is no way Chiasson should be on any line but #4 when everyone is healthy.

  • Lucky 13

    Thanks Ari, you have taken the wind out of my sails and now I’m floating aimlessly.

    Let me say this from the outset. I like Chiasson!
    He fills a role that we need on the team and he’s inexpensive.
    I love his PK abilities and his style of play, he lacks finish to be sure, but you can’t fault him for effort.

    Miscast is probably the best adjective here.
    It conjures to mind, a great Al Pacino saying ” My weaknesses, I wish I could come up with something, I’d probably have the same pause if you asked me what my strengths are. Maybe they are the same thing ”

    It’s clear to me that Chiasson shouldn’t be faulted for his strengths or weaknesses. I’m guilty of it myself and I need to get over it.

    However he’s being used is not Chiassons doing alone. He’s type-cast and does his best. That’s all you can ask for!

    • Derzie

      These are great points for life, minor hockey, etc. But at the top level, there are a sea of alternatives and a much higher bar (or at least there should be). The minors is filled with hard working guys who deserve better but it’s a cold, results based business. Alex is not producing results that matter: generating goals and wins. He does not deserve the spot, good guy or not.

      • Lucky 13

        Thanks Derzie, but you kinda missed the point.. You have become so fixated on one thing that it’s impossible to say anything different.

        Even pilots lose their bearings when they have no horizon for reference.
        Could your reference view be somewhat skewed?
        I know I have to reset mine every few games 🙂

        • Derzie

          My view requires facts to move me from that view. Tonight’s game is not moving my view. Nor will the next game. When the Oilers are better than us, it is end times.

  • Bean-counting cowboy

    We could use a better option with gaudreau but I’ve heard there is concern over Versteeg’s board work and the fact that the trio of Monahan/Johnny/Versteeg got their heads kicked in at the start of the year.

    Chiasson at least has the board work skill to dig out pucks on the forecheck and possession going for him… although I wonder why we can’t at least try another option to see if Johnny can get going.

    • Greatsave

      I don’t have numbers to back this up, but I would have thought that if board-work is what’s needed on the wing with Gaudreau and Monahan/Bennett, then Brouwer would be your guy. More physical by a mile, better hands, better track record of goal-scoring. Heck, even Ferland looks a better blend of size, physicality, and skill.

      Otherwise, if you’re going for pure skill for a passing/possession offensive game, go with Versteeg. Love his deceptive passing ability.

      Either way, just not Chiasson please. I’ve seen too many plays die on his blade. He’s this season’s Joe Colborne.

  • Derzie

    Chaisson stinks. See Ari’s nicely written work above to see why. By association, GG stinks for playing him and creating 2 poorly constructed lines, thus, killing Johnny & Sam & Monny.

  • snotss

    he is crap…can’t understand the ice time he gets….move him to the fourth line or down to Stockton…the flames have talent on the farm that can do his job better,cheaper and get valuable nhl time!!!!!

  • Blackgold

    Sammy Bennett scratched. I remember the 2014 draft all the flames fans were so happy that the Oilers took Draisaitl and Bennett was available. Quite a difference in their development so far. A long way to go in their careers, but Draisaitl is far ahead right now.

    • Greatsave

      I’ll sound like I’m making excuses, but Draisaitl is 9 months older than Bennett, and Bennett lost practically a whole season of development to his shoulder surgery.