There’s a lot of blame that can go around for the decline the New York Islanders season has taken over the past few months. And right at the top of those, is the unfortunate decline of Jason Chimera.
When the Islanders signed Chimera back on the first day of free agency back in 2016, many among the Islanders faithful were so-so on the acquisition. Chimera was coming off the best season of his career with the Washington Capitals, where he recorded a career high in goals, assists, and points. But at the age of 37, there was the thought that Chimera was now on the downside of his career despite the production, and that he would have minimal impact on the Isles offense. It was also highlighted that Chimera was supposed to come in to replace the departed fan-favorite Matt Martin, so the pressure was not getting any lighter.
At the start of last season, many of the naysayers were gloating as Chimera got off to an extremely poor start.
The Edmonton native only registered three assists in his first 12 games, and didn’t score his first goal of the season until the 13th game of the season. After finally notching that first goal, things did settle down for Chimera, but his production was still lacking. By the time New Years rolled around, Chimera was only at three goals and eight assists for an underwhelming 11 points. In mid-January though, the tide began to turn for Chimera. He started scoring goals and showing off his fantastic speed and ability to finish. Chimera also became a threat on the penalty kill and was flourishing as he finally was adjusted to the system and game-plan that his club wanted.
As the Islanders continued their push for the playoffs, Chimera was right there at the forefront every night making a difference, whether it was a big goal, hit, or generating speed to change the momentum. The Isles would miss the playoffs by one point. But it was Chimera who — could be argued — was the teams’ best player the second half of the season. His 17 goals from the beginning of January to the end of April was right at the top for most goals by any Islander the second half of the year.
Chimera would end the 2016-17 campaign tied for fourth on the team in goals, and fifth on the team in points.
With the expansion draft happening this past off-season, Chimera’s status with the Islanders faced uncertainty. It was clear that g.m. Garth Snow was going to leave him unprotected. Snow did end up leaving the 38-year old unprotected, but caught a break when Vegas g.m. George McPhee took a deal to stay away from certain Isles players, Chimera not being one of those assets that was so highly regarded.
When training camp got underway, their was a feeling that he was going to have to fight off youngsters — Josh Ho-Sang, Anthony Beauvillier and Mathew Barzal — if he was going to still be a regular every night. The preseason wore on, and it was becoming quite evident, that Chimera’s age had finally caught up with him. He still solidified a regular spot when opening night arrived, but the tone set around Chimera didn’t seem to show any positives forthcoming. Despite two assists in the first three games of the season, Chimera’s game had finally reached his decline as the first few weeks of the season occurred.
Throughout this year, Chimera has flopped between the third and fourth lines. Those third and fourth lines have been roughly invisible. And while Chimera doesn’t deserve all the blame, his production is no where near where it was in recent seasons. The point can also be made that Chimera hasn’t been able to find the chemistry with his linemates from a year ago, and the new ones he has been handed.
According to the site leftwinglock.com, Jason Chimera has played with Cal Clutterbuck and Casey Cizikas for 6.5% of the entire season. Brock Nelson and Anthony Beauvillier 2.1% of the year. In the past ten games, 2.6 % with Andrew Ladd and Nelson, 3.5% with Cizikas and Ross Johnston, and with Clutterbuck and Tanner Fritz 5.8%.
But even throwing different mates on a line with him hasn’t improved Chimera’s production. If you look deeper, Jason’s decline points tho the conclusion that he’s become a non-factor because he can’t handle how fast the game is becoming.
Chimera’s speed is not there anymore. His shot doesn’t hold the same lethal quality. The awareness and defensive game have all but left. And while he still may be one of the more well-respected players in that locker room, his game doesn’t warrant him being an impact part of this lineup anymore.
People can say they saw this coming where Chimera wouldn’t have it anymore. I’m not sure anyone could have predicted how fast his game would spiral down to where many are calling for him to be benched or waived.
Me, I’ve always rooted for Chimera since he got here. For how far he’s fallen, it’s sad. I hope he can find his game as the Isles still fight for the postseason. But for now, we’ve lost Jason Chimera, and only he can find his way back.
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