By Chris Gordon
Photo: Nick Wass
Last season, Capitals forward Jason Chimera was at times in open revolt against head coach Barry Trotz. The veteran winger tallied just one goal in his first 18 games. By December, he was a healthy scratch for the first time since 2013. He sat in the press box again later that month, a demeaning moment captured by EPIX’s Road to the Winter Classic crew.
“I think it’s embarrassing as a player when you get sat out,” Chimera said at the time. “I think as a player that’s played a long time, it’s embarrassing.”
Chimera finished the season with just seven goals, the third-fewest he had scored in a season since becoming a full-time NHL player in 2002. Trotz and Chimera had different ideas on how to fix that, but neither would budge or divulge specifics to the media.
“Me and him disagreed on a lot of things,” Trotz said on breakdown day last April. “I wouldn’t give in and he wouldn’t give in in some ways.”
The situation has greatly improved this year. Chimera already has 10 goals and 20 points, putting him on track for the best season of his career (24 goals). On November 11, Trotz entrusted Chimera with a spot on his second power play unit. Chimera, 36, responded with six power play points in nine games, comparing himself to a “fine wine” in the process.
“I think Jason’s in a better place in terms of what we’re trying to get him to do,” Trotz told reporters Sunday at Kettler Capitals Iceplex. “He’s an exceptional skater. That’s always a gift that he’s developed. For his age, he has a young body for playing the game at the pace that he does. He’s playing with passion, he’s playing with control. He’s got a little more purpose to his game and because of that I think he’s getting a lot more opportunities.”
On Saturday night, just over a year since his healthy scratch, Chimera burst through the neutral zone, collected a loose puck, blew past a Montreal defender, and flicked a puck past goaltender Mike Condon to give the Caps a 3-1 lead. Chimera leapt into the glass in glee.
“I think he’s enjoying himself and he’s enjoying the role that he’s in,” Trotz said. “He’s making the best of it.”
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