Chiarot gets his old job back

Young blue-liner vows he’ll be better prepared this time around

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You can be sure it wasn’t one thing, one mistake, one brain cramp that pushed Ben Chiarot off the Winnipeg Jets’ starting six blue-liners.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 01/12/2015 (2442 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

You can be sure it wasn’t one thing, one mistake, one brain cramp that pushed Ben Chiarot off the Winnipeg Jets’ starting six blue-liners.

The cumulative effect of some of those events, however, caused the 24-year-old from Hamilton, Ont., to trend towards the press box in early November and in all, he sat out for nine November games, including the last seven.

“His play wasn’t where we hoped it would be,” Jets coach Paul Maurice said Tuesday. “And that was the reason he came out. He’ll get an opportunity to go back in and to get back to where we think he should be.”

Mike Deal / Winnipeg Free Press Winnipeg Jets' Ben Chiarot (7) during practice at MTS Centre Tuesday.

That could well be Wednesday when the Jets meet the Toronto Maple Leafs at the MTS Centre at 6:30 p.m.

Chiarot has worked the last two days of practice paired often with Dustin Byfuglien.

And he’s itching for the opportunity to prove himself once again.

“I’m obviously excited to get back in,” Chiarot said after Tuesday’s practice. “It’s been a hard lesson learned. Sitting out like that is no fun.

“I’m just excited to get back in.”

Chiarot was part of the organization’s rescue plan about this time last season. Recalled from the AHL’s St. John’s IceCaps with just one game of NHL experience the previous season, he surprised many with his sturdy and reliable defending spiced with some aggressiveness.

Interrupted by a broken hand from a fight, Chiarot appeared in 40 games for the Jets and averaged 17 minutes of ice time per outing.

They weren’t small minutes, which is why expectations this season were clearly higher.

And not met.

“It’s the best league in the world. If you’re not bringing your A game, the next guy in line is,” Chiarot said. “There’s ups and downs to every season. It had been quite a long time since I had a down. When I came in last year it was pretty smooth sailing up until I broke my hand.

“There’s going to be ups and downs through careers and seasons and this is one of those times where things weren’t going to for you. The team was having a tough time as a group and it reflects on individuals, too.”

Only Chiarot’s play will reveal what lessons have been learned, but there was one comment that hints something will be different.

“I’ve found a new appreciation for practice and how you can treat every drill like it’s a game situation,” he said. “I find if you do that, and you can perfect it in practice, well, you can’t do anything in a game that you haven’t done already in practice so working on things in practice and treating it like a game is a good way to prepare yourself.”

Chiarot said he’s been neither scolded nor lectured during his time in the doghouse. The feedback, in fact, has been minimal.

“There’s not much to say when things aren’t going your way and you’re half a step off all over the ice,” he said. “Maybe it’s your focus, you’re 90 per cent of the way there but it’s the little things, preparing yourself.

“You see our leaders every day, the preparation they go through to make sure they’re ready and there’s a reason why they’re the best players. It’s because they do all the little things to prepare their bodies and get prepared every game for practice, games.

“That’s why they’re the top players.”

If Chiarot’s going back in, it’s likely into Adam Pardy’s recent spot.

Maurice said the decision about the timing of these moves is never about the player waiting and sitting.

“It’s not about the player out, ever, really,” the coach said. “The guy that’s in the lineup, whether it’s a forward, D or goaltender, has the opportunity stay in the lineup. What you want is the player that’s going in not to feel like if he makes one mistake, he’s coming out.

“Because they happen. So you don’t want that fear. You want the urgency that it brings but you don’t want the player afraid to play the game.

“I think this is true of younger players. They, at some point, learn the value of that opportunity, that getting back into the lineup isn’t just a given all the time, regardless of how they play.”

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

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