EDMONTON — Alex Chiasson is one of those players that all good teams have.
He can move up and down the lineup and work the front of the net on a power play. But to be honest, on a good team he’s a depth winger, which is what he became in Edmonton this season.
Chiasson has the experience and scoring ability to give you that clutch goal in a big game that every championship team seems to get from its third or fourth line. He’s been that guy ever since he won a Stanley Cup with the Washington Capitals in 2018, and he hopes to be that guy again in Edmonton, where he is currently riding out COVID-19.
“A lot of the championship teams are not just built overnight. It takes time,” said Chiasson, who signed a two-year, $4.3 million deal prior to the 2019-20 season. “It also takes experience, and sometimes you’ve got to face the lows or the highs and you’ve gotta grow as a team.”
Chiasson watched new general manager Ken Holland add some depth to the Oilers’ lineup, and as players like Kailer Yamamoto emerged it pushed Chiasson down into a bottom-six role. But he was playing on an improved team, as superstars Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl emerged to carry Edmonton to what would likely have been home ice advantage in Round 1.
“I think our young core of players has really taken that to the next level. They’ve taken good charge of our team,” the 29-year-old Chiasson said. “We’ve added a few guys who are really good on the ice and they’ve also provided a different type of personality in the locker room. There’s a lot of that stuff that seems really unnoticed on the ice but really what goes on off the ice is a big factor on championship teams.
“That’s one of the reasons I wanted to come back here last year because there’s a lot things I saw in this group that I saw when I played in Washington. Again, I think we’ve earned that as a team. We’ve showed that. We’re hopeful the season comes back, that we can go play and have fun.”
McDavid, we knew about. Chiasson scored a career-high 22 goals last season largely as McDavid’s right-winger, and on the power play.
It was the emergence of Draisaitl as a Hart Trophy favorite that really tipped the Oilers’ scales this season.
“He’s really self-driven. I think that’s one of the things I’ve noticed. He’s hard on himself,” Chiasson said of Draisaitl. “He pushes players to be better. He’s a guy at such a young age (24) that sees the game differently. There are so many guys in the league (where) it takes time to see that aspect of the game but he’s figured it out real quick. He’s decided to play the way he’s capable of playing.
“Hats off to him. This is all on him. He’s a great athlete, is in great shape, is a guy who takes good care of himself and that translates on the ice.”
For now however, Chiasson, Draisaitl and every other NHL player is no different than the rest of us. Chiasson is hanging here in Edmonton, staying inside and worrying about his parents and family back home.
“The biggest thing for me is family. My grandma, my mom and dad,” Chiasson said. “My parents are healthy and doing well (living near Quebec City), but the biggest message is trying to get my point across that this COVID-19 could really impact them.
“For us, we’re hockey players but we’re also human beings. You want everyone else around you to stay healthy. I was really protective of my mom and dad, making sure they stay home, limit their trips to grocery stores and other things that they usually do. It seems like they’ve done well, finding things to do inside and outside the house. That’s what is important for me.”
This kind of things puts into perspective where NHL hockey sits in the grand scheme of things. Still, while patiently waiting out the coronavirus pandemic, Chiasson is quietly still hoping for a 2020 playoff run.
“From my point of view, I hope our team gets a chance to go and play,” he said. “I think we’ve earned that as a team. We’ve played some good hockey and hopefully when this is all over, sports in general may be good for the community, for the fans in North American and really around the world.”