Canucks Roll Call is assessing every player who held a significant place in the fortunes of the 2021-22 Vancouver Canucks season. We’ll be looking at the highs and lows they experienced during the recent campaign, as well as what the future holds for them in Vancouver. We’ve begun with the club’s free agents and today we feature forward Alex Chiasson.
Position: Right wing
2021-22 totals (GP-G-A-P): 67-13-9-22, 24 PIM
Contract Status: Unrestricted Free Agent (UFA) coming off a one-year deal that paid him $750,000 after he made the Vancouver Canucks on a professional try-out (PTO) at training camp.
After a smattering of healthy scratches, stretches of ineffectiveness, Chiasson started to find his groove as the season wore on. He was given continuous opportunities on the power play for the most part and spent time on the top line at even strength near the end of the stretch drive. He finished the season to the right of JT Miller and Conor Garland, a fellow righty playing the left side.
Analytically and statistically Chiasson was right on his ‘expected goals’ for the season with 13. He delved out 68 hits, literally one-per-game, and drew six more minor penalties than he took. Always a bonus when you get to turn right around and perform on the power play shortly thereafter.
“Stuey”, the origin of that nickname he hasn’t explained, played his best hockey while the Canucks were making their final push for a playoff spot.
Chiasson reeled off a ten-point performance, including six goals, over a seven-game stretch from March 30th to April 14th. A cynic would suggest it coincided with an end-of-season desire to get a new contract from the Canucks, especially considering the run came after an eleven game pointless streak. One could also suggest he was just stepping up his game at the most important time of the year, playing with confidence while being given opportunities, and showing leadership qualities and speaking up more when it was needed most.
When Vancouver Canucks General Manager Jim Benning signed Chiasson out of camp there was a “net-front-presence-on-the-power-play” fixation for the club. He had pulled off the role successfully to various degrees in previous NHL stops including with the Edmonton Oilers and the Stanley Cup winning Washington Capitals, two more places where he used a PTO to get a job.
Pretty heady, determined stuff.
His possession, team shots, and expected team goal numbers are impressive, and he gets to the high danger areas on a regular basis.
At times he didn’t appear to be present and he lacked finish around the net. Prior to the pointless streak in the second half, Chiasson also had earlier streaks of no points in ten games and one point in eleven. Part of this revolved around him getting fourth line minutes.
When face-offs were involved, a great majority of his shift starts happened in the offensive zone. He’s an in-zone offensive threat, not one who will frighten you off the rush. Positioning and grind have to make up for the lesser mobility.
He missed just a handful of games due to Covid protocols and illness and seemed durable.
What the future holds
Chiasson turns 32-years-of-age on October 1st. At his end-of-season media availability, he made his hopes and desires very clear.
“To get an opportunity like I did towards the end of the year with injuries, being able to play on the power play, being with ‘Millsy’ (Miller) for a couple weeks, when you look back you appreciate that,” Chiasson said. “Hopefully it’s given me the opportunity to extend my career by a year or two. I’ve kind of moved around quite a bit. For a team I’ve only been on for a year this is a really close group, and obviously the stretch that we went on at the end, it brings everyone together.
“It would be an honour to come back next year, help the guys, and continue what we built this year,” Chiasson concluded.
Whether the hope becomes a reality is up to Vancouver Canucks President of Hockey Operations Jim Rutherford and General Manager Patrik Allvin.
If not, and if unsigned as a free agent, we might see Chiasson’s NHL PTO opportunity number-4.