At age 36 (he turned 37 three weeks ago) and after 14 years in the NHL, Jason Chimera just had his best season ever. Chimera scored a career-high 20 goals in 2015-16, a stellar performance that will make his likely departure from Washington this summer even more painful. But it must be done.
|14.0||time on ice per game|
|48.8||5v5 shot-attempt percentage|
|50.0||5v5 goal percentages|
About this visualization: This series of charts made by Micah McCurdy of hockeyviz.com shows various metrics for the player over the course of the 2015-16 season. A short description of each chart:
Twenty goals at age 36! Wow! In the last decade, here are some players who managed that: Alfredsson, St. Louis, Modano, Guerin, Iginla, Hossa, Shanahan, Jagr (of course), Datsyuk, Knuble (hell yeah), Selanne, and Sakic. And now Jason Chimera. The accomplishment is huge, and it’s evidence that Jason Chimera is a special player: faster than skaters a dozen years his junior — and tougher than pretty much anyone; his full 82-game season being proof positive of that fact.
The trade-off of Chimera’s quickness and grit had always been stone hands. Chimera is a 9-percent shooter on his career, which is average on scale, but low for a player of his type (i.e. lots of rush attacks). This season Chimera shot 12.1 percent, his highest since the 05-06 season that plucked him out of fourth line obscurity one decade ago. Much of this season’s Sh% bump was thanks to the power play, where Chimera scored four goals on 20 shots. Playing Chimera on the man advantage over Andre Burakovsky was a controversial deployment, but it paid off.
And it’s at that point that all the past-tense verbs start making me itch.
While Chimera’s season was remarkable and laudable, there are compelling reasons to think he will never do it again. For all his individual offense, the Capitals did not gain an advantage from Chimera’s 5v5 shifts– he drew dead with 34 Caps goals and 34 opponent goals. That zero goal differential is a gift when you consider that the Caps took only 48.8 percent of the shot attempts when Chimera was playing. No Caps player (save one alphabetically challenged depth forward) let the opponents shoot at a higher rate than Chimera.
For all his speed and grit and experience, Chimera got shelled. That sad truth speaks to Chimera’s proclivity for dump and chase and the efficacy of the cycle among a bottom-six player like him. He’s just not a good possession player; he never has been.
In my review of Jay Beagle last week, I made a point of how the Capitals’ resolution to establish three scoring lines puts pressure on Beagle if he’s expected to score (and we know he is). I stand by that position, but Beagle is not the target half as much as Chimera.
Among the Caps’ most common bottom-sixers during the Trotz administration, Chimera is obviously the odd man out. (Though Wilson ain’t much better.)
Take Richards’ and Winnik’s numbers with a grain of salt — their sample sizes are much smaller than the rest.
Anyway you slice it — from shot attempts down to goals — Jason Chimera is underwater. And while his skating speed might not decline in 2016-17, we’ve got abundant evidence that his wheels aren’t enough to make him a viable scoring player.
Chimera’s contract ends in a few weeks. His next deal might be his last. But I get the feeling his time in Washington is already past. While that’s probably for the best from the team’s perspective, the reptile part of my brain that processes hockey through feelings and not numbers is still righteously bummed out. Chimera has been a blast to watch on and off the ice.
Is anyone else feeling really bad about criticizing Chimera’s season after reading all those great stories and reliving all those happy memories? What’s your favorite Chimera memory? And what would need to happen for you to sign off on another season of the Ice Cheetah?
Read more: Japers Rink
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