Before the Dallas Stars headed off on the Olympic break, coach Lindy Ruff was asked which player could most use some time off. Ruff said that player was Alex Chiasson. The Stars rookie forward smiled when told of Ruff’s comment, and agreed that he needed the break.
“It was good for me to get away and think about something else other than the game,” Chiasson said. “I’ve been thinking so much the last couple of months. Maybe that’s what I need, time to sit back and kind of look at what I did and start over again. There are only six or seven weeks left, make a final push and give it all I’ve got.”
The 23-year-old right wing is looking for a strong stretch run after what has been a bumpy ride so far this season. Chiasson started off strong enough, scoring a goal in each of the first three games and registering five goals and four assists through the first nine games. He cooled off some, but even at the 26-game mark – basically one-third into the season – he was sitting at 15 points (eight goals, seven assists).
Since then he’s gone cold, especially in the goal scoring department, tallying just one goal along with nine assists over the last 30 games. He’s a minus-13 over that stretch, pushing his team-low plus/minus rating to minus-19.
It’s no wonder that Ruff, who talked to each player individually before the break, singled out Chiasson as a guy needing some time away from things.
“He was probably the longest conversation because it’s been a trying year for him. But he’s a young player who has to battle through that,” Ruff said just prior to the break. “He recently has had some good opportunities around the front of the net that hadn’t gone for him. Chances in games have gone way down, so chances for individuals will go down automatically and if you don’t score on that one chance or maybe you get a second at even strength, you’re held off the score sheet. But I told him you’ve got to think positive, think the net is big and if you keep going, it’s going to go in.”
Chiasson wouldn’t say much about that long conversation he had with Ruff before the break.
“It was a player-coach conversation and it’s between the two of us,” Chiasson said. “It’s just things I’ve got to go back to doing.”
Despite Chiasson’s ups and downs, the Stars’ head coach has continued to show confidence in the rookie forward. Chiasson has only missed two games this season, both due to illness. He’s been a mainstay on the power play, ranking third on the team in average power play time per game.
“Hopefully that shows he likes me a little bit,” Chiasson said with a smile. “I’ve had my struggles, he’s made me work through it and he’s been there for me when I needed it. As a young player, you appreciate that.”
Chiasson’s been a victim of extraordinarily high expectations after scoring six goals in seven games with the Stars late last season, and then scoring three more in his first three games this season. People start breaking out the calculators and can project some pretty big numbers, unattainable numbers.
“It doesn’t work that way,” said Stars GM Jim Nill. “It doesn’t matter who you are.”
There have been conversations between Chiasson and Nill, who pointed out that this won’t be the only goal scoring slump of Chiasson’s career. There will be more ahead. All players go through them, even the best players in the league.
“He said to me it happened this year and it’s going to happen again,” Chiasson said. “When it happens again maybe I can look back at this year, make better decisions and hopefully it will help me.”
Nill said sometimes people forget that Chiasson is a young player, just an NHL rookie and not even a full two-year pro yet. When Nill looks at Chiasson, he sees a player who is among the top ten rookie scorers this season with 25 points (nine goals, 16 assists) in 56 games played, and has an opportunity to do more over the final quarter of the season.
“I think he has had a great season. We forget sometimes with a lot of these guys. It’s his first season in the NHL and first year-and-a-half as a pro, and he’s come in and has  points,” said Nill. “You look around and he has more points than guys that have five or six years in the league. It’s been a great season. He got off to a great start, he hit a bumpy road but he’s had a chance to recharge and has a chance for a strong finish here.”
Chiasson spent part of his break relaxing with family in Montreal. He also spent time working out. Chiasson lost 15 pounds earlier in the season when he missed a couple games due to strep throat, and part of his break was dedicated to adding some weight. He said he’s felt good on the ice as the Stars resumed practices following the break, and is looking at these final 24 games as a fresh start.
“It was good for me to get that break, get away and not think about the ice,” Chiasson said. “Hopefully I can get back here and get my confidence back, contribute and help the team make the playoffs.”
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club. Mark Stepneski is an independent writer whose posts on DallasStars.com reflect his own opinions and do not represent official statements from the Dallas Stars. You can follow Mark on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.