Detroit Red Wings: Ben Chiarot needs to channel his inner Brad Stuart

(Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images)
(Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images) /

Ben Chiarot has fallen out of favor with many fans. Still, the veteran defenseman will get another opportunity to prove his worth playing as a top-four defender this coming season. Last summer, the Detroit Red Wings signed Chiarot to a four-year deal worth $19 million. At the time, it looked like a good deal for both parties; it’s a deal that could come back to bite general manager Steve Yzerman unless Chiarot can hit the reset button.

Chiarot, 32, seemed like an excellent addition to the Detroit Red Wings last summer but did not perform well in year one. I’ve mentioned a few times that I believe he’s a better player than he proved to be last season; hopefully, I am right. He performed so poorly that I won’t allow myself to believe that his play has fallen off that quickly. Sure, he was never going to be the second coming of Nicklas Lidstrom, but he’s undoubtedly better than Jonathan Ericsson despite not appearing that way in 2022-23.

I keep going back to 2020-21 when Chiarot was part of Montreal’s top pairing, often playing with Shea Weber during the Habs’ Cinderella run to the Stanley Cup Finals. Chiarot didn’t light up the scoreboard, but he played a physical brand of hockey that resonated well in the postseason while averaging over 25 minutes per night, leading the Canadiens. Montreal often rolled four defensemen down the stretch, and I recall being impressed with their entire top four (Jeff Petry, Joel Edmundson, Weber, and Chiarot). Having a dialed-in Carey Price also helps mask some deficiencies.

Detroit Red Wings need Ben Chiarot to channel his inner Brad Stuart.

If you’ve followed my work, I’ve often envisioned that Ben Chiarot has the potential to be Detroit’s next Brad Stuart. Stuart stood 6-foot-2 and played at around 215 pounds. Chiarot is 6-foot-3 and is around 230 pounds. Like Chiarot, Stuart bounced around a bit during his career. Stuart built a name for himself while playing for the San Jose Sharks, but following six years, he began to bounce around quite a bit before becoming a vital piece to the Detroit Red Wings 2007-08 Stanley Cup team.

Similar to Chiarot, Stuart liked to play a physical brand of hockey. Although Stuart was left-handed, he was comfortable playing the off-hand side of the ice and paired exceptionally well with Nicklas Kronwall. The two formed Detroit’s second pairing behind Lidstrom and Brian Rafalski. Chiarot is left-handed and usually plays the left side but is comfortable playing his off-hand if required. Last season after the Detroit Red Wings traded Filip Hronek to the Vancouver Canucks, head coach Derek Lalonde plugged Chiarot in on the right side for the remainder of the season.

Hopefully, Chiarot can get back on track and give the organization some steady play. Stuart was known as a defensive defenseman but could occasionally chip in on the scoresheet, averaging 0.3 points per game throughout his career. Stuart finished with 80 goals and 335 points over 1,056 games, maintaining a plus-8 rating. Chiarot has totaled 36 goals and 137 points over 565 games (0.24 points per game) and has a career plus/minus of minus-40. That rating does include his awful minus-31 rating last season, though. Stuart maintained a Corsi For Percentage of 49% throughout his career but a -11.1 Relative Corsi For Percentage (since 2007, when they started tracking the metric.) Chiarot has maintained a Corsi For Percentage of 49% to this point in his career, which includes his awful 42.3% this past season. His Relative Corsi For Percentage for his career comes in at -7.6%. Last season he produced a -12.2%, by far the worst rating in this metric for a single season.

During his first season with Detroit, Chiarot played in 76 games, scoring five goals and adding 14 assists for 19 total points while averaging just over 20 minutes of ice time. Also, he immediately became part of Lalonde’s leadership group wearing an ‘A’ on his sweater as he did with Montreal.

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We need to understand that Chiarot will never be Adam Fox, Cale Makar, or Moritz Seider, but if he could find a way to be Brad Stuart, I’ll be more than thrilled. I expect Chiarot to begin the 2023-24 season paired with newly signed free agent Justin Holl. Holl, like Chiarot, is a 6-foot-3 defender that logged over 20 minutes of ice per game last season for the Toronto Maple Leafs. Holl and Chiarot will be counted on to stabilize the second pairing that can take some pressure off Detroit’s first pairing of Jake Walman and Seider, along with being effective penalty killers.