Photo Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn - USA TODAY Sports

Canucks Army Year in Review: Michael Chaput

The only fans to react when the Vancouver Canucks signed unrestricted free agent centre Michael Chaput to a one-year, two-way contract last season were those of the Utica Comets. He was to centre their first line, after all.

Here we are a full season later, and your average Comets fan couldn’t pick Chaput out in a line. Last we saw him in Vancouver, Chaput was playing trigger man on the Sedin twins’ right flank. The best-laid plans, and so on.

Mostly, though, Chaput was the Canucks’ fourth line centre last season. And he looked up to the task on most nights, too.

Playing with Brendan Gaunce on his left flank and Jack Skille on his right, Chaput was able to carve out a full-time NHL role for the first time since being drafted six seasons ago. Though Chaput’s line wasn’t the most potent offensively, they controlled roughly 55% of score-adjusted shot attempts together and were almost never scored on themselves.

In the faceoff circle, Chaput won nearly 53% of the draws he took — second to only Brandon Sutter among qualifying Canucks’ centres.

About the best thing one can usually say about a fourth-line centre is, generally, that the time they played was a wash. We can usually live with a fourth line that doesn’t score, so long as they don’t give up a tonne. In that sense, Chaput’s season was a smashing success.

Chaput had a negligible if slightly negative impact on his linemates ability to control five-on-five shot attempts and unblocked shot attempts. Without being able to sort by date on the remaining websites that track underlying shot-based metrics, I’ll never know for certain, but I think his impact was bordering on positive almost right up until his dreadful stint with the Sedins to finish the season — a role Chaput was horribly ill-suited to fill.

On a Canucks’ penalty kill that was porous all season, Chaput had some utility — though I should add that only Bo Horvat had a more negative impact on the team’s ability to suppress unblocked shot attempts down a man. I guess the Chaput’s utility in this role is that he can play the penalty kill, rather than he can play it well. There’s value in that if you’re getting it from a walk-on player on a two-way contract.

Whether Chaput is a Canuck or not next season, I think we’ve seen the last of him as a first liner — even in spot duty. The fact of the matter is that Chaput just doesn’t have much in the way of offensive upside. It was a banner year for Chaput offensively, and he has four goals and assists alike to show for it.

As the Canucks climb to their 50-contract limit, it becomes increasingly unlikely that they’ll bring Chaput back for next season. They’ve already re-signed Jayson Megna (why?), and last we heard they planned to re-sign Joseph Cramarossa (why?). Vancouver’s fast running out of room for fringe fourth liners.

It’s a shame Chaput’s time with the Canucks appears more likely than not to be at an end. A player like Chaput won’t make or break the Canucks next season, but there’s a part for him to play in helping keep the score close and games competitive in limited ice-time.

  • Cageyvet

    Of the guys kicking around last season that needed to be re-signed or dropped, he was my first choice to keep, although I wanted us to sign Cramarossa to give him some more opportunity. With Chaput you know what you’re getting, and he would have been far above Megna on my list. Less offense, but better suited to his role than Megna. Either way, these fringe players just serve to illustrate the lack of NHL caliber competition on the roster, it should pick up a little this season, but we’re at least 2 years away from the training camp battles leaving many possibly NHL-ready players on the farm team. If you’re at all superior to a Skille, Megna or Chaput, the departure of Hansen and Burrows should let you grab a spot with the Canucks.

    • Killer Marmot

      Either way, these fringe players just serve to illustrate the lack of NHL caliber competition on the roster, it should pick up a little this season, but we’re at least 2 years away from the training camp battles leaving many possibly NHL-ready players on the farm team.

      I’m not so sure about that. I count eight forwards who are certain to make the roster. That could leave Gaunce, Goldobin, Dahlen, Rodin (?), Boucher, Dorcette, Molino, and others fighting for those final four positions. This means that, at the start of the season at least, there will be some NHL-caliber players in Utica.

      • Cageyvet

        Not to be argumentative, but Molino and Rodin are a long ways from proving they are NHL ready, although it’s more about health with Rodin. Dahlen by all accounts is at least a year away, so I think you’re a bit optimistic. Gaunce and Boucher have been on the fringes for a while, so even though I’m optimistic that you’re right, being realistic I have to acknowledge that they may be NHL ready on the Canucks, but would be depth on a stronger roster. I picked 2 years because at least half of your list needs some seasoning to convince anyone not wearing rose-coloured glasses that they are true NHL’ers.

        • Killer Marmot

          I have no problems counting Gaunce and Goldobin as NHL caliber. Bottom-six, but still NHL.

          And every year, a few marginal players step up to the plate in training camp and show that they belong in the NHL. I expect that to happen from the pool of Boucher, Molino, Rodin, Dahlen, and Virtanen that in September. The talent is definitely there.

  • wojohowitz

    Next years roster is totally up in the air with Travis Green coming in. Does he want muscle (size), skill (PP specialist) or attitude (Dorset) on his fourth line. One example is whether Gaunce can be a third line center or a fourth line winger. Chaput still has upside, again as a third or fourth line center.

    • Gregthehockeynut

      Chaput helped the Canucks faceoff win percentage which was poor before his arrival in the bottom six. He seems to play smaller than his listed size though, a la Loui Erikssson. So that Gaunce / Skille type of line mates is better for Chaput I think. Unfortunately that pools alot of our 170-190ish players in the top six {aside from Horvat}. Maybe management should consider packaging a couple of these smaller prospects for a mid tier talent big young forward+ draft choices. Canucks were dead last in average size last season, they cant afford to get any smaller.