EDMONTON — Alex Chiasson can take you there. Past more than 3,000 hockey names, around Henri Richard’s 11 appearances, and right to the place that his name is engraved on the Stanley Cup.
“I’m near the last (on the Washington Capitals roster), on the right. Next to John Carlson.”
From that shiny intersection, the career paths of Carlson and Chiasson take a pronounced fork in the road. Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan shook both players’ hands last summer, once to congratulate Carlson on an eight-year, $64 million deal, the other to wish Chiasson luck.
The Capitals would not require his services any longer.
“Every player will tell you they’re looking for term. It’s a sense of security,” said Chiasson, on his fourth consecutive one-year pact, this time with the Edmonton Oilers. “Personally, I’ve been on a lot of one years deals.”
The Hockey Gods rewarded Chiasson, the son of a Montreal financier and a mother who worked a government job, with a Stanley Cup last spring. He’d played 61 regular season and 16 playoff games for a Capitals team that finally found the formula after decades of bad D.C. chemistry.
Then the Capitals cut him loose, and those same Hockey Gods couldn’t even come up with a one-year deal for him to sign. He landed in Edmonton on a Professional Try Out — a Stanley Cup champion, working for meal money and hoping for a break. Trying to beat some kid out of a job.
He’s shown plenty of commitment to the game. It’s just never given any back. So he’s had to manufacture it wherever he can. Even in 24-hour increments, like this summer when he had his day with the Cup in Quebec City.
“Those times when people doubt me, when they don’t want to take a chance, or (commit) to me,” he said, after a two-goal night versus Pittsburgh Tuesday. “When you get to lift the Cup and spend 24 hours with it, that’s a cool commitment for me.”
Having missed the banner raising and the ring ceremony in Washington, Chiasson will receive his Stanley Cup ring Wednesday morning in Edmonton, before facing the Caps later that evening as an Edmonton Oiler, his fifth NHL team.
To him, having his name on the Cup for the next 65 years is tres cool, more than the ring he’ll receive. Because no one ever dreamt of a Cup ring, or celebrated a ring-winning goal on their driveway as a kid, right?
“When you see Maurice Richard, Jean Beliveau, Guy Lafleur… The big names that I grew up with (on the Cup),” he said. ‘The dreams as a kid, being Canadian — that sense was strong. But also family-wise, my friends, that was special as well. Because I’ve had to grind it out to stay in the league, to prove that I belong. That’s where it hit me. It was a reward for all my hard work, to get my day with the Cup, and my name on it.”
After slugging it out to earn a one-way deal in Edmonton, Chiasson watched the first five games from the press box. On Tuesday he scored twice against Pittsburgh, and in a perfect metaphor for his career, he hit a post on a third-period hat trick bid, then took a clearing shot in the ear and had to leave the game for stitches.
Those Hockey Gods, it seems, spare only so much good fortune for guys like Chiasson, before he gets put back in his place.
But what if this is his place, here in Edmonton?
A guy who learned last season what it takes to win, on a roster and a team that needs desperately to learn the formula?
“We have enough skill here — its not skill,” he counsels. “It’s a question of guys buying into their roles, the way we want to play 60 minutes… It takes time.
“I’m not going to be the savior, but if I can just help a couple of guys… It’s more mental, because every shift matters. That’s what I learned last year: The stuff you can control, you have to do it your best,” he said. “Here, we have ups and downs.”
Ups and downs.
A guy who started the Penguins game on the fourth line and finished on Leon Draisaitl’s wing, Chiasson knows all about that.