Senators’ Thomas Chabot pleased with improvement despite tough year

With the sporting world at a standstill because of the coronavirus, a lot of NHL teams are anxiously awaiting news on the status of the 2019-20 season and whether they’ll make the Stanley Cup playoffs. 

For the Ottawa Senators, the latter part is not a concern. They have struggled mightily on the ice this season and will be playing for little more than pride in their final 11 games — if the regular season is even completed.

The Senators were hit hard by the virus, with six players testing positive for COVID-19 in an outbreak following a California road trip in early March. According to the team, all of those players have made full recoveries.

Defenseman Thomas Chabot, one of the Sens’ bright spots this season (team-high 33 assists), says the situation with the virus was scary, but he’s glad his teammates have recovered. 

“It’s something that everybody should be really taking seriously,” he said on a video call with reporters Thursday. “It’s a big thing going around, but obviously the team, the guys that were affected by it, luckily enough, they’re all feeling really well. They’re all recovered, which is a great sign for us. . . . . Once the virus started, we all kind of followed the rules that we were told to do and we’ve been trying to stay safe and stay healthy.” 

The 23-year-old Chabot’s play this season, specifically his improved defensive work, has earned praise from Senators general manager Pierre Dorion. Chabot says he has been working on that part of his game for a while. 

“Obviously, it’s something that I’ve been saying for years is something I want to really get better at,” he said. “Being a good, solid two-way defenseman and playing against the top players from other teams. It’s far from being perfect but, like we say, if every year we can get better and take a step towards being better, then that’s a good sign.”

Chabot himself has been impressed with the steps some of his teammates have taken this year, including forward Anthony Duclair. 

“You knew coming into this year he was going to have a bigger role and I think he took a big step, which led him to go on to the All-Star [Game],” he said. “I know it was very well-deserved for him. He scored a lot of goals (23 this season). He played really well for us as a team, just the speed, the amount of skill that he has. His hockey sense is very good.” 

Given the team’s positive signs, Chabot is hopeful the NHL will be able to finish the season. With a number of possibilities for doing that still on the table, including neutral-site games and stadiums with no fans, he’s ready to do whatever it takes to get back on the ice.

“If you get back and playing the game, I think it’d be fun,” he said. “Obviously, it’d be a situation you’re not used to — to have no fans in the stands — but, at that point, I think it’d be something that guys would be willing to do. I think just getting back on the ice again with the guys, back in the locker room, and obviously everything has been kind of different, everything’s been kind of weird with this situation, but I think if that comes to that point I’d be happy to do it.” 

Chabot would have mixed emotions If the rest of the 2019-20 season were to be called off. 

“It’s been OK. Obviously, we knew coming into this year it was going to be a different year,” he said. “Obviously, we were a younger team and we were going to have some ups and downs during this season, but I know that definitely next year I want to start the season and maybe have a better year than I did this year. 

“I think when we look back on specific things like my game in my own zone, I think we took a really good step, so that’d be something that, next year, I want to bring back and keep on getting better. It was a bigger challenge every night playing against the top lines but I think those are challenges that I’m looking forward to. It’s something that I want to bring into my game and I want to do for the days that we’ll be a playoff team.”

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