Wednesday, September 8, 2010

30 Caps in 30 Days: Jason Chimera

During the thirty days of September, I'll be trying to preview the seasons of thirty players currently under contract with the Washington Capitals and who have a good chance of spending some time in red, white, and blue this season. Advanced stats are given from ranked against other players at the same position--from today on, forward, defense, or goalie--in the same organization, at 5-on-5, unless otherwise noted. Age is on opening night. Today, Jason Chimera)

Jason Chimera: age 31, 6'2", 216 pounds, shoots left.
Contract: $1.875 million, UFA in 2013, per Capgeek.
2009-2010 linemates: 41% Eric Fehr and Brendan Morrison
2010 playoff linemates: 30% Matt Bradley and Boyd Gordon, 24% Eric Belanger and Eric Fehr, 15% Eric Belanger and Matt Bradley

2009-2010 raw stats:
NHL: 39 GP, 7-10-17, +6, 68 shots, 51 PIM (Capitals); 78 GP, 15-19-34, -1, 160 shots, 98 PIM
Playoffs: 7 GP, 1-2-3, +2, 15 shots, 2 PIM

2009-2010 advanced stats: 2nd in Corsi QoC, 1st in Corsi Rel QoC, second-to-last in Corsi QoT, and fourth-to-last (of 17) in Corsi Rel QoT. Zonestart 47.0% offensive zone (thirteenth, fifth-to-last) with Zonefinish 50.5% offensive zone (middling).
2010 playoffs advanced stats: 6th in Corsi QoC, 7th in Corsi Rel QoC, 9th in Corsi QoT, and 8th in Corsi Rel QoT (all middling).

(Photo courtesy Caps Snaps)

WOWY (yellow is how much better the player is with Chimera, green how much better Chimera is with the player):

George McPhee in the middle of last season made a trade that, I imagine, shocked most hockey fans, sending Capitals captain Chris Clark along with defenseman Milan Jurcina to Columbus for speedy and gritty winger Jason Chimera. In hindsight--if hindsight applies less than a year after the fact--the trade looks great, as McPhee ripped off Columbus again not only shed salary, but added sandpaper to a lineup that on the whole lacks it.

Quite honestly, though, as long as Boudreau doesn't maintain much continuity with the forward line combinations (as well as defensemen pairings) I think Chimera needs to try to do more. In terms of Corsi, he wasn't doing much to help his team win and really took time to mesh with linemates, explaining why the only linemates he had a good sample with and with whom he had a good territorial advantage were his most frequent ones, Brendan Morrison and Eric Fehr. Aside from them, he didn't really seem to get along well with other Caps forwards.

On the other hand, Chimera has one of the most clearly defined roles on the Caps. Since his job is not to drive Corsi and offense, he can focus on attacking with speed, delivering hits, and generally making a nuisance of himself from the point of view of the other team, maybe with an occasional fight here and there. Perhaps because of this role he is able to play relatively tough minutes like he did during the regular season--while Chimera didn't do well with many linemates, he didn't do too poorly for a player facing the second toughest minutes over the course of the season. Then again, Behind the Net lists 78 games played for Chimera, so that includes his time in Columbus, where he frequently played with Samuel Pahlsson (well known as a shutdown center, so I think we can infer he played tough minutes in Columbus). His time as a Blue Jacket may very well have inflated his "quality of competition" and deflated his "quality of team" statistics, but I think it speaks volumes that Scott Arniel--the AHL Coach of the Year in his 3rd AHL coaching season--trusted Chimera enough to give him tough minutes. While Chimera may not drive the offense, he can certainly tag along as an additional threat and force the other team to play a bit more defensively as they try and limit Chimera's chances to use his full speed.

In short, Chimera is not much of a question mark on the Capitals. He doesn't have the finishing and playmaking ability to warrant a spot on a skilled scoring line, but he also has the grit, skating, and size to warrant more than fourth line minutes. If Bruce Boudreau gives him consistent linemates that can help cover for him defensively, move the play up the ice, and be creative in offensive zone, like Eric Fehr and Mathieu Perreault, then Chimera could look and perform quite well. Something along the lines of 14 goals, 30 points, and a single digit plus-minus rating sounds reasonable for Chimera, assuming health (which is more of a question for this "Mythical Beast" than for, say, Alex Ovechkin). Chimera's greatest value to the Caps, however, could and should show itself in the playoffs.

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