With the NHL off-season officially underway for the Ottawa Senators, a busy work schedule is ahead for the club. After failing the make the playoffs, the Senators will have a lengthy start to their summer this season. While the 2017-18 season was a disaster for the Senators, Thomas Chabot turned many heads even though the blue line has been one of the darkest hours for the Ottawa Senators. Besides Erik Karlsson having another great season, rookie Chabot was in the spotlight too.
Up and Down We Go: How Thomas Chabot finally cracked the Ottawa Senators roster
Thomas Chabot looked like a lock to be in the Senators opening night roster when training camp began. The defender was coming off a dominant season in the QMJHL. After being named the league’s best defender in the juniors, it was supposed to be all smooth sailing for Chabot. He came into camp ready to impress the coaching staff and hoping to be a regular on the Sens. Chabot survived the first few cuts the team made, but ultimately got sent down near the end of camp.
Senators head coach Guy Boucher was very pleased with Chabot’s offensive instincts, but advisted Chabot had more to learn defensively speaking. Chabot was sent to the Belleville Senators on October 5th, hoping he wouldn’t make a home there permanently.
After being shut out by the Laval Rocket in their inaugural debut, Thomas Chabot lit the lamp in game two. He scored his first goal on North American ice and added a helper in a 6-2 loss to Laval on October 7th. Chabot got called up the next day to the big club, as the Senators were missing bodies on the blue line. After being sent down again on October 15th, Chabot got called up again on November 20th, finally securing a spot on the Senators roster for good.
The Senators were banged up on the back end, and recalling a defender who excels on the attack was something they were missing from their lineup. They were hoping Thomas Chabot could fill that hole in the lineup.
The Immediate Impact Thomas Chabot had for the Senators
In his three previous games Chabot played before being called up in November, he had three points in two games. Chabot suited up November 22nd when the Senators faced the Washington Capitals. Chabot registered an assist in the loss to the Capitals. The defender saw 15:36 minutes of ice time in his return.
He would go on to score his first NHL goal just two games later versus the New York Islanders, also tallying two assists in the win. The next stretch of games were a red flag for Chabot when touching on his offensive games. Chabot went on a nine-game stretch where he was held pointless.
All of this comes with justified reasoning for his production drought. After playing an average of 14 minutes in his first three games since being called up again, Chabot’s time on ice took a hit.
Here are Chabot’s time on ice numbers during his nine game pointless stretch.
- Winnipeg Jets: 22:21
- Anaheim Ducks: 16:10
- Los Angeles Kings: 10:14
- San Jose Sharks: 13:01
- New York Rangers: 10:00
- Montreal Canadiens: 10:53
- Minnesota Wild: 11:23
- Tampa Bay Lightning: 9:53
- Florida Panthers: 15:00
In his next game, Chabot scored a goal against the Boston Bruins, while logging 21:17 of time on ice. In his nine-game pointless stretch, Chabot was averaging only 13:08 minutes per game. His first game started off with a bang, only for his time on ice to decrease slowly as games went on. When it increased, it was very marginal and not enough for Chabot to get back on track. He spent most of his time during the nine-game stretch playing bottom-pairing minutes.
How Thomas Chabot gained Guy Boucher’s trust
After the Bruins game, the Senators were in a midst of a rough patch. It was arguably where their season went all downhill. The Senators were already 37 games into their season and sat with a 12-17-8 record – a record the Senators were hoping to improve on going into 2018. Although the Senators woes continued, something was on the horizon for Thomas Chabot. He began to see himself on the ice for longer periods of time and was also beginning to be matched up against more threatening opponents. All of this suggesting that head coach Guy Boucher was putting more trust on Chabot’s shoulders. But what caused this shift in plan for Boucher?
With Johnny Oduya clearly not a reliable partner for Erik Karlsson, Boucher decided to throw Chabot alongside of Karlsson – a move that was anything but negative. The Chabot-Karlsson pairing was nothing short of magnificent for the most part. Even though Chabot needed guidance at times, that’s something all young defenders need early on. The pairing was split up at times during the rest of the Senators season, but not for an extended period of time.
For Guy Boucher and the Ottawa Senators, there was nothing to lose by exploring this route. Thomas Chabot was showing he was ready to tackle heavy minutes and he was given the opportunity to do so. The Senators quickly saw as their season progressed, their playoff hopes were getting slimmer. This was one of the reasons Guy Boucher decided to give the youngsters like Chabot more of a chance to play.
Thomas Chabot took action on improving his defensive game
Even after Chabot was told by management he was here to stay, he continued improving his weakness – his defensive game. From January 1st to April 9th, the last day of the regular season, here are Chabot’s totals in blocks, takeaways and giveaways.
Chabot ranked fourth among all Senators defenders with 55 blocks, averaging 1.2 blocks per game in 45 games played since January 1st to season’s end.
His giveaways were a red flag. Chabot was second in giveaways with 29. Although still averaging less than a giveaway per game, when you compare it to the rest of the NHL defenders, it looks much better. Thomas Chabot was ranked one of the defenders that gave the puck up the least in comparison to others.
Chabot’s takeaways were also an interesting aspect of his first pro year. The defender ranked 31st among all NHL defenders in takeaways. A portion that is something to be proud of as a young defender in his first year. In terms of the team, Chabot was great for takeaways for the Senators. He ranked second among the team’s defenders with 20, one behind Erik Karlsson’s 30. Chabot also closed the year off with a 49.4 Corsi For% – a great help when it came to possession for the Ottawa Senators
Chabot knew that he had to bring his A game when it came to improvements defensively, which was one of the several reasons his time on ice came up as the season continued in 2018.
Grading His First Season and What’s Next for Thomas Chabot
Chabot had a fairly impressive first year in the NHL with the Ottawa Senators. He evolved into the defender the staff was looking at him to become. Not only did he improve his defensive game, he managed to not sacrifice his offensive skills and instincts as well. This made a great balance of what the Senators wanted from him and what he wanted to continue doing for himself. Although staff had trust issues with Chabot, they decided to give it a go. That’s when Thomas Chabot was able to be himself and improve his game thoroughly. There are definitely some things Chabot will have to work on, but that can virtually be said about every NHL player there is in the league, especially for youngsters who step into the spotlight.
Whether Erik Karlsson stays a Senator or not, Chabot is expected to play top minutes next year. You can also almost guarantee he’ll be the team’s best defender behind Karlsson. Expect Thomas Chabot to continue to improve his game going into next year. With the way he handled himself this year, it’s safe to bet Chabot will continue to be a threat.
The Senators will continue to give Chabot more opportunities to showcase his skills, but by the looks of his first pro year, the Senators have found a great defender for many years to come. For the time being, Sens fans will be focusing on the Erik Karlsson saga. When next season comes upon us, Chabot will look to take another step in his NHL career with the organization.
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