Now into his 15th NHL season, Jason Chimera long ago learned the frustration of getting benched, though that didn’t make the latest event easier to swallow.
“I think it’s embarrassing as a player when you get sat out,” he said. “I think as a player that’s played a long time, it’s embarrassing. But you have to learn from it.”
Saturday morning, Chimera returned to the Capitals’ locker room facing his first healthy scratch since April 2013. He had skated extra with assistant coach Todd Reirden and signed some autographs. Now, he tried to balance frustration with perspective.
“You go through life, a lot of lessons you can learn, and this is another lesson you can learn,” Chimera said. “Move from it, learn from it. There’s a lot of good things you can see from up top you normally don’t see, so you have to take that into consideration. When I was younger…I’m still [ticked] off I’m not playing, but you have to learn from it and move on. Life’s too short to let it dwell on you.
“Tomorrow will be a new day. You might be in next game, so you can’t let it get to you. Keep moving forward. When you have the family, I think that really helps. That’s when you learn life lessons the most. You learn you’ve got to put on a smile for the kids, or else they’re going to beat you up too. You’ve got to move on. Take the best from it and move on.”
Coach Barry Trotz would explain the move as the product of a clogged forward situation. He would say Chimera’s benching had little to do with the costly interference penalty committed Thursday during an overtime loss to Columbus, and that since he planned on forward Andre Burakovsky returning the lineup, someone needed to sit. He would caution reporters against “reading into” the change as a product of Chimera’s mistake. He would even praise Chimera, who had skated well this month, registering assists in back-to-back games, two days after declining to refer to the veteran forward by name in his postgame news conference when discussing the penalty.
“I know Chimmer did not want to take that penalty,” Trotz said. “He didn’t do it on purpose. But that’s managing the game and all that. It’s not as big a factor as you’re probably going to read into it, think it is. It really isn’t. Burakovsky is going to go in, and my answer at the end of the press conference when I was asked about Burakovsky, my response wasn’t really great. I have a good reason to put [Burakovsky] in, but we were going to put him in anyways. That was the long-term plan anyways. If we had won that game, he was going in today.”
With Burakovsky, however, the long-term plan will not align with Saturday’s strategy against Tampa Bay at Verizon Center. Burakovsky will replace Chimera as the fourth-line left winger, marking the first time since Washington moved Burakovsky to the middle this summer that the 19-year-old rookie will return to his native wing.
Citing a fast, offensively adept Lightning squad, as well as Tampa Bay’s fourth-line mountain of fists in Brian Boyle, Trotz preferred to keep Michael Latta as the fourth line’s center for his strength and faceoff capabilities. And since Alex Ovechkin, Marcus Johnasson and Brooks Laich would not be removed from lineup, Chimera got tabbed to sit.
“When someone sits out like Chimmer, I know he wasn’t happy when I told him he wasn’t playing, which is the great response you want,” Trotz said. “I know when I put him back in the lineup, he’s going to go. It’s no different than Eric Fehr or [Jay Beagle] or Jack Hillen, all the people I’ve sat out this year.”
Still, for Chimera, who has scored six points through 28 games, he could only learn from the penalty and look forward to his return, whenever that may come.
“I felt I was playing good,” he said. “Points-wise and goals wise, they’re not coming as easily as I’d like this year. I feel I’ve been playing pretty good. Obviously you look at the stats and you feel you’re playing like crap and you want to do more. Obviously you want to help the team a lot more. But I feel I’ve been doing some good things, I’ve been skating pretty well. Stuff like that. Keep doing the things I do and hopefully it’ll work out.”