The Winnipeg Jets had a historic 2017-18 season that saw them pick up a franchise (and local NHL) record 52 wins and a berth in the Western Conference Finals. Although the end came in disappointing fashion to the Vegas Golden Knights, the future seems very bright in Winnipeg. But before we go forward into the summer with the draft and free agency, let us look back to this past season and review individual performances.
Today the 2018-19 Pilot’s Logbook player review series continues with a look at depth defenseman Ben Chiarot who always brought plenty of grit and hitting to the rink and while he wasn’t great, wasn’t quite as bad as you think.
#7 – LEFT DEFENSEMAN
6’2″ / 219 lbs / Age: 27
Contract Status: Signed through 18-19 ($1.4 Mil/yr)
|GP||TOI||CF||CA||CF%||CF% rel||FF||FA||FF%||FF% rel||oZS%||dZS%|
PLAYER’S SEASON IN REVIEW
It’s probably not a great sign when the most notable thing that happened in your season was a fight with the captain of your team, but on March 24, that’s exactly what happened when Ben Chiarot and Blake Wheeler traded punches at a Saturday morning practice.
Blake Wheeler and Ben Chiarot just fought with each other here at practice. Appears that Wheeler took a slap shot at Chiarot. Looks like Scheifele cross-checked Chiarot and then Wheeler stepped in and began throwing punches at Chiarot. #NHLJets
— Scott Billeck (@ScottBilleck) March 24, 2018
For what it’s worth, it didn’t seem to affect team unity nor even more thankfully did it cause any injuries, but regardless of what happened on the ice – and it’s amazing that in this day and age of cameras virtually everywhere that there wasn’t any of this altercation – most fans seemed to single out Chiarot as the culprit even though it sure seemed like Wheeler’s high and tight slap shot that buzzed the head of Chiarot was the real catalyst.
The fan reaction to Chiarot then was a bit of a 180 to the reaction fans had when he was fined for a high stick to the chin of Anaheim Ducks pest Corey Perry – a fine well worth the money in the eyes of most and one that helped inspire some raised money for charity.
And that really was Chiarot’s season in a nutshell. Ideally he’s a team’s seventh defenseman that takes the odd turn with injury issues, but the Jets had so many that at times Chiarot saw top four pairing minutes in some games which is not ideal. Thankfully compared to his previous season he did show some signs of improvement. He was a player fans at times got behind with his grit and hard nose style play, but also at times drew all kinds of frustration from those same fans.
The one thing that does leap off the page when you look at his numbers is that of all Jets defensemen Chiarot had the lowest defensive zone start rate at 42.2% and the highest offensive zone start rate at 53.5% – The Jets coaching staff did protect him a bit in terms of matchups and where he started on the ice and for his part Chiarot was decent enough in maintaining the Jets defensive zone strategy of keeping everything to the outside perimeter of the zone even if his ability to help the Jets exit that zone and push into the offensive end of the ice was limited.
Again Ben benefited from injuries to other players to get ice time and just like in the regular season, he wasn’t completely awful but he also struggled at times with zone exits. His best game of maybe the entire season was game two against the Wild where he picked up an assist, had four hits, three blocks and actually got into a rare playoff scrap:
Ben’s postseason though ended in a thud as he was a healthy scratch in game five against the Vegas Golden Knights after three straight games of less and less ice time due to his inability to deal with constant Vegas fore-checking.
With one more year on his contract this could be a big season coming up for Chiarot. Ben proved his worth well enough filling in for various injuries to Dmitri Kulikov and Tobias Enstrom this past season that it may have convinced Jets brass that the team would be ok without one or even both players moving forward. At the same time though Chiarot is the type of player that needs to be babysat a fair amount. Paul Maurice has to be more mindful of who he puts Chiarot out on the ice against as Ben’s numbers dip the moment he is put against higher quality opposition.
Chiarot likely is in next year’s line up in the third pairing, but if a player like Tucker Poolman or Sami Niku can emerge from camp as better options, Ben could just as easily be looking for another rash of injuries to get him back in the lineup much like this past season.