Red Wings: Ben Chiarot performing poorly in year one of four-year deal

Brian Sevald-USA TODAY Sports
Brian Sevald-USA TODAY Sports /

Detroit Red Wings defenseman Ben Chiarot isn’t having a great first season with the organization.

Red Wings general manager (GM) Steve Yzerman went into free agency hoping to fill some of the team’s glaring needs. The first order of business had been to add some much-needed depth scoring. The Detroit Red Wings didn’t just add depth scoring; it seems as though they’ve added some primary scoring with Dominik Kubalik and David Perron. Check.

The second order of business Yzerman needed to address was finding a reliable defense partner to play with second-year defender Moritz Seider. Seider is coming off a spectacular rookie season which saw the youthful defender the Calder Trophy awarded to the NHL’s top rookie. It was the first time a Red Wings player had won the award since Roger Crozier in 1964-65. Yzerman added Chiarot to pair with Seider, along with Olli Maatta to pair with the offensive-minded Filip Hronek to replace Marc Staal and Danny DeKeyser from a year ago.

Seider is off to a bit of a slower start this season than last, but I am reluctant to call it a sophomore slump. If you thought that former head coach Jeff Blashill liked to pull on the reins to ensure his team was playing defensive-minded hockey, I am not even sure how to describe first-year head coach Derek Lalonde. Lalonde’s primary focus is team defense and limiting offensive risks. It’s not a bad thing, but limiting the risk also limits the potential reward. Seider has recorded two goals totaling 12 points over the first 27 games of the season. Last year, Seider totaled 50 points in 82 contests.

While all eyes were on Chiarot to begin the season, Maatta has been the most impressive offseason addition on the backend. Maatta is a defensive-minded, reliable veteran defenseman. He and Hronek make up Detroit’s second pairing but are performing like a top unit. Part of the reason this second group is performing so well is because Detroit’s top unit of Chiarot and Seider are matched up against the opponent’s top line. Chiarot and Seider are faced with the best talent around the league night in and night out; it’s a challenging task but nothing the pair didn’t expect heading into the season. Also, these are two new pairings that have worked in just 27 games together. Sometimes it takes a while before defense pairings feel entirely comfortable with each other. This past Saturday, Seider, and Chiarot played their most complete game together in a 3-2 overtime loss on the road in Dallas. Hopefully, it’s a sign of things to come.

Defenseman Ben Chiarot is off to a slow start with the Detroit Red Wings.

This past summer, the Detroit Red Wings signed Chiarot to a four-year deal that averages $4.75 million per season. The 31-year-old has totaled two goals and seven points through 27 games, but Detroit’s even-strength possession metrics with Chiarot on the ice are less than desirable.

Chiarot’s Corsi For Percentage (CF%) comes in at 42.5%, a far cry from his career average of 49.7%. It gets worse, a lot worse. Chiarot’s Corsi For Percentage in all situations is a career-worst 37.8%. Part of the reason is attributed to the fact that Chiarot works on the penalty kill but is rarely part of the team’s two power-play units. When you thought it was over, Chiarot’s Relative Corsi Percentage is currently a terrible -5.3, the only player with a worse metric in this category on Detroit is Robert Hagg at -7.2. If you are wondering, Hronek leads the Red Wings with a 7.5% Relative Corsi For Percentage.

Although I wouldn’t be in favor of benching Chiarot, I would like to see Lalonde do one of two things. Perhaps swap Maatta (once he returns to the lineup) and Chiarot. I wouldn’t be in favor of knowing how well Maatta and Hronek have played together.

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Instead, Lalonde should matchup Hronek and Maatta against the opponent’s top line a few times throughout the game to take some pressure off Detroit’s top pairing. Seider and Chiarot begin roughly 60% of their five-on-five shifts in the defensive zone.