Alex Chiasson wrapped up his second season with the Edmonton Oilers this year. But unlike in 2018-19, Chiasson didn’t net over-20 goals this year. He didn’t even surpass 25 points. This is despite the fact that Chiasson spent almost all season alongside at least two of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Leon Draisaitl, and James Neal.
But despite the low-scoring, Chiasson did have one jaw-dropping feature: just how one-sided he was. Some players, like Chiasson’s teammates Connor McDavid and Draisaitl, are one-sided thanks to some amazing offence mixed with terrible defence. The opposite can be said about other players, like John Marino.
Chiasson, though… he has his own definition of one-sidedness. Simply put, he only had any sort of value on the power-play… how peculiar.
Alex Chiasson Has a Secret in His Numbers
The Advanced Stats
When arguing such an egregious claim, it’s important to find ways to stay as objective as possible; to cut out any grey area. Luckily, there are plenty of advanced stats that help detail how a player performs at each end of the ice, among other things. xG, or expected goals, is among the best tools to use for this purpose. It claims that some shots have a higher chance of going in than others. With this, statistians can track shot locations and project how many goals should be expected. This can then be projected to a rate, per-60 most commonly, to bring everyone onto the same playing field.
Well, Chiasson’s even-strength xGF/60 (expected-goals-for per-60) ranked 15th among all 22 Edmonton skaters to play in more than 25 games. His 2.19 xGF/60 was… not good. It ranked 400th among the entire league, out of 524 players. (minimum of 500 minutes played). This, effectively, placed Chiasson in the league’s 24th percentile when it comes to impact in the offensive end… emphatically showing his well-below-average impact in the offensive end.
His defence was a bit better, at least. His xGA/60 (expected-goals-against per-60) tallied in at 2.31. In a stat where lower is better, and 2.4 is average, Chiasson came in at just-above average, although not by much. Still, it ranked eighth among the 22 Oilers.
Chiasson’s xG argues a simple case: he was bad at offence and alright on defence. Fair enough. But this sentiment is solidified by his GAR stats (goals-above-replacement) which also use a handful of methods to craft EVS-Off-GAR (EVO) and EVS-Def-GAR (EVD) (even-strength offence/defence), among others. Chiasson’s tally in the two stats respectively was -1.6 and 0 respectively; again showing his poor abilities while attacking at 5v5 and his perfectly “okay” defence.
But there is one spot where Chiasson was absolutely incredible: his PP-Off-GAR (PPO). Like with EVO and EVD, this stat uses a bunch of information to formulate the goals-above-replacement that a player had on the power-play. And, well, Chiasson’s was really good. In fact, it ranked second among the entire NHL. The only player who performed better on the power-play than Chiasson was McDavid.
That’s absolutely crazy for a player whose even-strength offence was well below replacement level. Only one other player within the NHL’s top-30 in terms of PPO also had a negative EVO: rookie Nick Suzuki, who tallied a barely-worrisome -0.9 EVO. Almost double Chiasson’s -1.6. Excluding rookies, only four other players within the top-100 had both a positive PPO and negative EVO.
But Chiasson not only had a positive PPO, he had the second-best in the NHL. That’s incredible. You don’t have to look far to understand why his tally was so sky-high, though. Ranking first in PPO was McDavid and ranking third was Draisaitl. Nugent-Hopkins also ranked ninth.
So Chiasson’s special teams performance wasn’t as jaw-dropping as his stat line makes it seem at first glance. He simply benefited from being held up by some of the best power-play names in the NHL.
But the insanity of the situation isn’t lost. Chiasson simply was only good when on the power-play. Even his baseline stats prove this. 13 of his 24 points this year came on the power-play or roughly 52 percent of all of the points he scored. This 52 percent is the highest of any Oilers player; nearly 10 percent over the next-highest forward.
This isn’t a new phenomenon either. 15 of Chiasson’s 38 points in 2018-19 came on the power-play, again the highest among Oilers. The discrepancy between his EVO and PPO also remained, with his 39th-highest-in-the-league PPO of 3.4 being more than four-times his EVO tally of -1.5.
What This Means
It’s hard to find a satisfying conclusion to these numbers. They simply note that the Edmonton power play (which topped the league in PP% by over four percent) was so damn good, it took a player whose offence doesn’t belong in the NHL and made him into one of the best power-play forwards in the league.
But therein lies the takeaway. Alex Chiasson isn’t a mogwai who turns into an offensively-gifted gremlin when his team gets on the power play. He’s simply lucky enough to, for some reason, be continuously featured on a power play that also features two of the NHL’s best offensive players.
Replacing Chiasson on the power play could work wonders. Kailer Yamamoto, who scored nearly a point-per-game, only received 25 minutes of power-play time this year; and he scored twice in that little time frame. Tyler Ennis and Andreas Athanasiou — if re-signed — would also be demanding power play time, and would be a definite upgrade from Chiasson.
Alex Chiasson isn’t good, per the advanced stats. His offensive impact is awful and his defensive impact is negligible. For the Oilers power play to completely change how he looks is mind-boggling. With an actual offensive dynamo like Yamamoto filling Chiasson’s spot, the Oilers may very well rival the title of “greatest power play ever”. Even Ennis or Athanasiou, who have positive even-strength offensive impacts, would make a noticeable boost to what is already the NHL’s best power play. Replacing Chiasson on the PP — and removing his EVS impact from the lineup — might be the secret boost that Edmonton needs.