Theme: “Power and speed be hands and feet.”
-- Ralph Waldo Emerson
If you were to look at a photo or perhaps a short video of Jason Chimera, you might be inclined to pigeon-hole him as a bruising sort, a six-two, 220-pound ball of ferocity. Maybe it’s the close-shaven head and square jaw. Well, he can be that. In 500 NHL games he has been in involved in 20 fights, he has recorded almost 100 penalty minutes per 82-games played, and he had a couple of memorable scrapes in Caps games last year, one as a member of the Columbus Blue Jackets that made him Public Enemy Number One in the eyes of Caps fans, the other that endeared him to those same fans.
But what Chimera also possesses is speed. So much, in fact, that on a team that has more than a bit of flash he might be the fastest skater among the Capitals. It is a quality that serves him well barreling off the wing to put himself in a position to score. And, it keeps defensemen on their heels and goalies with a watchful eye toward his freight-training through the crease.
The combination of speed, a certain orneriness, and decent enough hands to record 15 goals (seven of them with the Caps) combined to provide the Caps will solid play from a third-line left wing, the sort they might have expected they would get from Matt Pettinger after Pettinger recorded a 20-18-38 line in the 2005-2006 season.
Pettinger, as Caps fans know, did have another decent season (16-16-32 in 64 games in 2006-2007), but then saw his numbers and, eventually, his playing time drop off dramatically after Bruce Boudreau took over as Caps coach. Chimera, on the other hand, possesses something Pettinger did not, that being his ability to get up and down the ice quickly, a quality that fits better in the Caps’ overall scheme of things.
The punch that Chimera provided from the left side might be seen better in comparison to a somewhat similar type of player on the squad. Comparing Chimera’s production at 5-on-5 with Brooks Laich, we find that Chimera had a higher goals-scored-per-60 minutes (0.89 to 0.67) and had comparable points-per-60 minutes production (2.09 to 2.12).* Laich has better numbers than Chimera as far as Corsi and GVT measures, but Laich also had superior quality of teammates, while the quality of competition they faced was roughly equivalent. We are not suggesting Chimera as a replacement for Laich down the road, just pointing out that Chimera does provide some offensive oomph from what is normally thought of as a “checking” line.
Overall in his 39 games with the Caps, Chimera was another of those players who seemed to have better results on the road than at Verizon Center. In 17 road games he was 5-6-11, plus-6, while going 2-4-6, even, in 22 games at Verizon Center. What he was not was especially impressive against the best in the East. In 12 games for the Caps against teams that would make the playoffs he was 1-2-3, plus-2.
Fearless: A third line of Chimera, Mathieu Perreault, and Eric Fehr seems to be lighting up camp rather well so far. It is a line that could – could, mind you – record 50 goals this year (watch it, cuz…we went down this road once before). It would not be a checking line in the usual sense of the word, but could put another level of pressure on defenses that would have to contend with the firepower on the top two lines provided by the likes of Ovechkin, Semin, Backstrom, Knuble, and Laich.
Cheerless: Don’t get so far ahead of yourself, cuz. Chimera is a decent enough player, but one thing we found a bit surprising is that he ranked 171st among 579 forwards in hits, not bad, but his neighborhood included Rostislav Olesz and Anze Kopitar, not generally thought of as big boppers. Even Chris Clark, for whom Chimera was obtained from Columbus, registered more hits (90 to 80) in fewer games (74 to 78).
In the end…
On balance, Chimera was an offensive upgrade to Chris Clark. Of that there can be no doubt, especially given Clark’s slow recovery to form from injury. His speed afoot makes him a good fit with this club, and he is a reliable 15-or-so goal scorer (he averaged 14.5 over the last six seasons). He is not going to be a 20-goal scorer, not with his lack of power play ice time and third line responsibility that will provide him with 12 minutes or so of even strength ice time a night.
But Chimera is one of those players that a club needs underneath the top-flight guys whose names everyone knows. A team that has a Sidney Crosby needs a Tyler Kennedy. A team with a Patrick Kane needs a Troy Brouwer. A team with a Pavel Datsyuk needs a Dan Cleary to round out the talent and give opponents just a little bit more to think about. Chimera could be just such a player for the Caps this seaaon.
74 games, 15-20-35, +11