Ben Chiarot is a Detroit Red Wings defenceman who is a divisive topic of conversation. Some view him as a blueliner with offensive instincts who likes to join the rush and plays adequate defense in a top-two pairing role. Others believe he needs a veteran defensive stalwart to play with and brings down anyone who doesn’t match that description.
Looking at his entire career, there are points where he was properly utilized and others where he was completely overwhelmed. He can play well with elite defencemen, but otherwise, Chiarot should have a ceiling on how much he plays and in what situations the Red Wings deploy him.
In his 2016-17 season with the Winnipeg Jets (first year of goals for tracking data from Dobber Frozen Pool), Chiarot played 59 games. His Corsi for percentage (CF%) was 45 percent, and his goals for percentage (GF%) was 46.6 percent. To refresh, CF% is the percentage of all shot attempts that are on the opposition’s goaltender while that player is on the ice. Similarly, GF% is the percentage of all the goals that are scored by the opposition’s goaltender with that player on the ice.
In 2017-18, Chiarot struggled again despite 54 percent offensive deployment (it was 47 percent the previous season). His CF% was 50 percent, and his GF% was 57 percent. Those are pretty decent numbers, but he also faced the second easiest quality of competition (QoC) on the team. Tucker Poolman faced the easiest QoC, but also played in only 24 games (to Chiarot’s 57). Relative to his team, his CF% was last out of nine defencemen that played for the Jets that season. Chiarot didn’t get into a rhythm with any one single defence partner, as he bounced around between Dustin Byfuglien (33 percent), Poolman (21 percent), Dmitri Kulikov (16.5 percent), and Tyler Myers (14.6 percent).
Related: Red Wings’ Chiarot Is Not the Best Defense Partner for Seider
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The season after (2018-19), Chiarot faced the toughest competition of his career (fourth hardest on the team) and posted decent results relative to his teammates. Out of the nine Jets defencemen, he finished the season sixth in CF% and fifth in GF%; he averaged 18:37 TOI for the entire season. Chiarot spent 49 percent of his ice time with the top defenceman of the team, Byfuglien, and reached 20 points for the first time in his career. His play was elevated by being around the best Jets defenceman, and he probably would have seen worse results had things played out similarly to previous years.
The Montreal Canadiens Years
In 2019-20, his first season with the Montreal Canadiens, Chiarot’s TOI jumped up to 23:08 per game, 4:30 more than the season before. This increase in TOI for Chiarot was largely due to spending 53.5 percent of his TOI with Shea Weber, the team’s number one defenceman. Chiarot played with Jeff Petry (arguably the second-best Canadiens defenceman) for 21.4 percent of his total ice time over the year. So he spent the majority of the season with the Canadiens’ two best defencemen.
Statistically speaking, Chiarot gathered 21 points in 69 games played (GP) for a 0.30 points per game (P/G) pace, the highest of his career to that point. He also paced 1.88 shots per game (SOG/GP), 2.20 hits per game, and 1.86 blocks per game, all career highs. He also ranked fifth amongst eight Canadiens blueliners in CF% and CF%.
Prior to the 2019-20 season, the highest percentage of time Chiarot spent killing his team’s penalties (%SH) that he had was 35.6 percent (in 2018-19); it was 61.4 percent in 2019-20. It is difficult to sustain an offensive style of play when you spend so much time killing penalties. Often you end up blocking a lot of shots when playing shorthanded, which adds more wear and tear to your body.
The past three years — including the present 2022-23 season — paint us a picture of a defenceman out of his depth. These last three years also are the only years that Dobber Frozen Pool has expected goals for and against (xGA, xGF) numbers. Here’s a refresher on what expected goals are. Below are Chiarot’s TOI, xGA, GA, CF% and %SH for all three years.
Above, we see for all three years that his actual GA was higher than the xGA by 12.55, 6.27, and 9.75. If we look at xGA in conjunction with CF%, we get a clearer picture. Chiarot’s CF% over the same span of time was 52.8 (2020-21), 49.1 (2021-22), and 42.5 (2022-23). In 2020-21, he had a good CF% but a really bad GA. This reflects poorly on him and/or the goalie. Either the goalie allowed a lot of easily saveable shots into the net, or Chiarot (and whoever he was paired with) had a high volume of high-danger chances allowed on their goalie.
In 2020-21, Chiarot spent 63.9 percent of his TOI with Weber, and they allowed 21 goals and only scored 10 while they were on the ice. In 2021-22, he spent 24 percent with Petry, 21 percent with David Savard, 18 percent with Alexander Romanov, and 14.2 percent with MacKenzie Weegar (after he was traded to the Florida Panthers). With Petry, Romanov, and Weegar, he came out with two more goals scored for than against. With Savard, they allowed nine more goals than they scored. Petry and Weegar are very good defensemen, while Savard is a third-pairing blueliner at this stage of his career.
In 2022-23 so far Chiarot has spent 81.5 percent of his ice time paired with Moritz Seider, where they have scored 18 goals and allowed 30.
Chiarot has shown that when he played with Weber, he can be a top-pairing defenceman. He hasn’t generated enough offence to warrant first-pairing deployment as his career high of 26 points in a season. His most recent stretch of being outscored in GA vs xGA makes me hesitant to say that he is defensive enough to be on the first defensive pairing. He’s not a top pairing defenceman and should stop being deployed like one.