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.