Out of all the news that has come out of the recent poor road trip and tough home loss to the Colorado Avalanche, one of them was quickly mentioned in a morning press conference before a game against their local rivals in the Toronto Maple Leafs. As it turns out, Thomas Chabot is playing hurt.
Head coach D.J. Smith mentioned to the media that Thomas Chabot, even after returning from injury earlier this season, is still playing despite lingering issues.
“Chabot is playing hurt right now,” Smith said. “Everyone knows. But he wants to be in it. He’s as a tough as a player as I’ve ever coached.”
Paradoxically, this is both a surprise and no surprise at all to Sens fans who’ve watched Thomas Chabot over the 2022-23 season. He’s been a step behind what fans have expected from previous seasons; with slow decision-making and a lot more defensive mistakes than what this team needs from its best-paid defenseman.
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The surprise of it all comes from the sudden confirmation of it, that the coach used it to show how tough of a fighter Chabot is. As fans, we know of his tenacity and skill from the years where he was by far the best defenseman on the team, and was rewarded with the most time on ice due to it.
Alas, this is where the issue lies. How much of Chabot’s play this year was due to injury and how much was fitting into a new team where he doesn’t need to play 30 minutes a game? The new signing Jakob Chychrun finally gives Chabot another teammate who can lighten the load.
As for performance, Chabot is still a good offensive defenseman, putting up 36 points in 62 games so far. But, for defense, his -13 for plus/minus is last among all active Senators defenseman.
It’s easy to err on the side of injury, as defenseman with injuries usually are the most visibly different on the ice (asides from goaltending). Looking to what Chabot has done wrong this season, a lot of it makes sense if he’s injured.
If that is the case, than we shouldn’t look towards this season as the start of a downward trend or a new norm for Thomas Chabot. Wipe this season off like a blank slate and look at the much improved team around you as motivation to improve for 2023-24.
Just know that the expectations, much like the teams’, will be higher than this year.