Saturday, June 06, 2015

Washington Capitals: 2014-2015 By the Tens -- Forwards: Jason Chimera

“Life is fits and starts, mostly fits.”
― Walker Percy

Jason Chimera’s career with the Washington Capitals has been a model of consistent inconsistency.  Up one year, down the next, in regular rhythm.  The 2014-2015 season was a “down” year in that cycle – 7-12-19, minus-1, in 77 games.  It added one more year to a profile that looks like this in terms of his per-82 game scoring rates:
  • 2009-2010: 15-21-36
  • 2010-2011: 10-16-26
  • 2011-2012: 20-19-39
  • 2012-2013: 5-19-24
  • 2013-2014: 15-27-42
  • 2014-2015: 7-13-20
His drop in production in 2014-2015 was not a product of minutes; his 12:56 in average ice time was 48 seconds less (about one shift) than his average over five and a half seasons with the Caps.  It was not shooting percentage.  Never a great shooter (8.7 percent over his full career), his 7.3 percent mark was not far off his average with the Caps (7.8 percent).

It was not necessarily his linemates.  In terms of those with whom he spent the most time at 5-on-5 this season, Joel Ward (41.8 percent of Chimera’s 5-on-5 ice time) and Eric Fehr (34.3 percent) were his most frequent linemates, the same pair with whom he spent most of his time in 2013-2014, although the shares were higher in 2013-2014 (81.6 percent with Ward, 37.2 percent with Fehr, numbers from

Shooting the puck might have been a factor in the year-to-year drop in performance this season; Chimera went from 2.04 shots per game in 2013-2014 to 1.25 per game this year, but it does not exhibit such a tidy trend over his five-plus seasons in Washington.  He recorded no shots on goal in 28 of his 77 games overall.

It was a pity he did not score more; the Caps did rather well in those instances in which he did (11-3-0).  The team also seemed to do better when he had more ice time.  In the 15 games in which he skated more than 15 minutes, the Caps were 9-4-2.

There was a persistence in his frustrating output.  Chimera recorded two points in each of his first six ten-game segments.  In five of them he recorded a goal and an assist (two assists in his third ten-game segment).  His performance ticked up a notch in the last two segments (0-4-4 and 2-1-3), and he recorded more than half of his penalty minutes (27 of 51) in those last two segments .   The penalty minutes were largely the product of a seven-game stretch in late February and early March in which Chimera recorded his three fights of the season, taking on Buffalo’s Mike Weber, Columbus’ Dalton Prout, and Philadelphia’s Zac Rinaldo.  For what it’s worth, the votes a had Chimera the victor in all three.  Perhaps angry Ice Cheetah is productive Ice Cheetah. 

Then there were the shots, or more precisely, the shot attempts.  Chimera ranked dead last among Capital skaters in shot attempt differential at 5-on-5 (minus-78).  He was tied for 714th among 882 skaters in the league, in fact (although Buffalo’s Rasmus Ristolainen, at minus-618, could retire the trophy).  

Fearless’ Take: One unsung aspect of Chimera’s game is his durability.  In his five-plus seasons in Washington, he appeared in 408 of 419 games (97.4 percent), five of those 11 missed games coming this season do to “did not play, coach’s decision” criteria.

Cheerless’ Take:  Uh, yeah…about those missed games.  Sometimes, the boss and the player just do not seem to see things the same way.  It happens.

One thing that did not change was his ice time deployment.  Chimera averaged 11 seconds a night on the power play, 1:23 killing penalties.  Both were actually down from last season (0:50/1:43).

Odd Chimera Fact: That up and down thing Chimera has with scoring coincides with his penalty differential, but with a reverse effect.  In his five full seasons with the Caps his penalties drawn-to-penalties taken differential at 5-on-5 is:
  • 2010-2011: plus-5
  • 2011-2012: minus-1
  • 2012-2013: plus-9
  • 2013-2014: even
  • 2014-2015: plus-8
Game to Remember: March 29th versus New York Rangers. Washington went into its March 29th contest against the New York Rangers having lost two of their previous three games and had lost both previous meetings against the Rangers in the season series.  The Caps scored early on an Alex Ovechkin goal but surrendered the lead on two goals 61 seconds part just before the end of the first period.  Washington tied it on a power play goal in the second, leaving the third period to settle matters.  Chimera broke the tie in the fifth minute with some hard work in front of Ranger goalie Cam Talbot.  Setting up at the top of the crease, he battled with Carl Hagelin for position while Brooks Laich and Eric Fehr were taking whacks at the puck from Talbot’s left.  Fehr’s backhand attempt was laying in front of Talbot when Chimera got enough of his stick on the puck to nudge it through Talbot’s legs to put the Caps ahead.  Less than three minutes later, Chimera struck again on a much prettier play, charging down the middle to take a feed from Laich, then freezing Talbot with a fake to the five-hole, pulling the puck around his left pad and in for the insurance goal in what would be a 5-2 Capitals win and his only two-goal game of the season.

Game to Forget: December 11th versus Columbus. Riding a three-game winning streak, the Caps hosted the Columbus Blue Jackets in a mid-December matchup.  They got off to a good start with an Eric Fehr power play goal less than four minutes into the game.  But the Caps could not shake loose of the visitors, allowing the Blue Jackets to tie the game twice, the last time mid-way through the third period.  The teams went to overtime where, three minutes into the session, Chimera took an interference penalty against Jack Johnson.  The Caps were on the verge of killing off the penalty, but with 18.8 seconds left, Nick Foligno one-timed a feed from Johnson past goalie Braden Holtby’s left shoulder, and the Caps lost, 4-3.  Chimera was scratched in the following game, although the story line was that room had to be made for Andre Burakovsky.  

Postseason: 3-4-7, plus-4, one game-winning goal

For Jason Chimera the playoffs were two different experiences.  In seven games at home, he was 3-3-6, plus-7.  On the road, however, he was 0-1-1, minus-3.  He was one of four Capitals to record two two-point games, one in Game 5 in the opening round series against the New York Islanders in a 5-1 win, the other in Game 6 against the New York Rangers in Round 2, a 4-3 loss.  Both games were at Verizon Center.  It was the latest in what has been a consistent record for Chimera in post season play.  In 51 career post season games with the Caps he is 11-13-24, plus-9.  His 24 points over the Caps’ last five post season appearances ranks third on the team, behind Alex Ovechkin (40) and Nicklas Backstrom (30).

In the end…

The 2014-2015 season was a difficult one for Jason Chimera.  There was the curious on-again, off-again character of his performance, this season being one of the “off-again” variety.  Then there was the tension between player and new coach.   As the coach put it…
“Me and him disagreed on a lot of things this year.  And I wouldn’t give in and he wouldn’t give in in some ways, and I think we have a lot of respect for each other, and I thought at the end of the year he had grown a lot.”
It was a season that, like his career with the Caps, progressed in fits and starts, with its good moments and bad.  Maybe the last word about it belongs to the player… “Terrible season, good ending personally.”  It fits.

Grade: C+

Rob Carr/Getty Images North America