When Alex Chiasson of the Dallas Stars enrolled at Northwood School, a prep school in upstate New York, the Quebec-native’s English was, well, questionable. While he’s called “Chaser” by teammates because of the typical hockey player nickname equation (first half of first or last name plus “-er”, "-sy" or “-y”) some Stars fans prefer to call him “Toaster.”
It was one of only three English words he knew, other than “yes” and “no.”
Six years later, Chiasson speaks English just fine and has become another young player coming through the Stars’ ranks who shows promise that the future is bright in Big D.
After getting called up at the end of last season, Chiasson proceeded to score six times on 13 shots in his first seven games with the Stars. His shooting percentage was a ridiculous 46-percent. And not even the off-season could slow him down as he scored in each of Dallas’ first three games this years.
For Chiasson, it was a matter of confidence and linemates that helped sparked him after making the jump to The Show.
“When I came in, I had the opportunity to play with Ray Whitney and Jamie Benn right away in my second game,” said Chiasson by phone last week. “I really felt comfortable playing with those two guys. We were making a push for the playoffs, so I was just trying to make an impression, [which] was really my main thing for the last couple of games.
"Of course scoring goals definitely helped me for a little bit, but it was really up to me in the summer how much I really wanted to stay here. I needed a big training camp to prove that I could play here and belong with those guys. It’s a hard league to play in. I would like to score every night if I could, but it’s not the way it works. I try my best, but you really got to come in every day and try and get better. That’s my mentality, to try and get better, leave it out there on the ice every day and hopefully good things will happen."
Chiasson credits two people for making a big impact on his career: Willie Desjardins and Gary Roberts. The former was his coach with the AHL's Texas Stars during the 2012-13 season and pushed Chiasson daily to become a better player. Roberts was the one who taught him about nutrition as Chiasson became another of many players who have heeded the former NHLer's fitness advice.
We spoke with Chiasson last week about the Stars' recent inconsistent play, his new coach Lindy Ruff, the influence of Ray Whitney and more.
Q. After winning six of seven games in mid-November, you guys haven't won two straight since. Can you put your finger on the team’s inconsistent ways of late?
CHIASSON: We’re working hard. It’s not the lack of effort. I think, maybe only the game against Chicago, was where we as a team didn’t really show up. That’s the kind of team that you can’t afford to that [against]. They have too much depth, there’s a lot of skill and they play with a high tempo.
For other things, we’re right there. It’s just like [versus Nashville] -- we’re up 1-0 and they score two goals right away and we’ve got to chase again. These are the games that are tough to play. They’re also harder when you’re on the road. We’re going to need a little bit of help from our power play (currently 29th, 11.3-percent). Maybe that can help us get a couple goals. We’ve got a couple injuries. We’ve lost two key guys on the back end with [Stephane] Robidas and [Trevor] Daley and we have [Vern] Fiddler out. It’s a young lineup. We’re just trying to do our best and get it going.
You only played a handful of games under Glen Gulutzan at the end of last season. Now with a good three months with Lindy Ruff, how are they different coaches?
From my perspective, Glen was more of a teacher, a guy who read a lot about the game, played the X’s and O’s. I think Lindy is more of an emotional coach who pushes a lot more of the players. He expects a lot out of you.
Lindy’s been around the league for a while, he’s really well-respected. It’s fun to play for him. He’s really meant a lot to the players. He really asks for it, hard work and do the plays you’ve got to do. I don’t think he’s the type of coach that’s going to be all over you trying to make you play differently. He really wants you to bring the best every night and I think that’s what he respects.
Your teammate, Ray Whitney, was in his rookie season while you were early on in diapers. You’ve played with him a bit now. What do you learn from a guy like him? Do you ask him questions or do you sit back and just observe how he’s goes about business?
At first I kind of just sat back and waited for him to say something or I watched things that he did. That’s what I learned last year. This year, I think he’s a guy that I’m really comfortable with. It’s funny. He’s toward the end of his career and I just started. The way it works sometimes we kind of push each other to get better. Right now, it’s definitely a good relationship. If I have any questions, he’s probably the number one guy I can go and ask. I think the fact that he’s played with a lot of tremendous players and seen a lot of different things throughout his career just speaks for itself. He’s the guy that really changed my thinking and makes it a lot easier to play with.
Did you ever play as him in the NHL video games growing up?
Not really. I don’t think I used him as a player. I remember his time in Carolina when they won the Cup. It’s crazy. Time flies by and you end up playing with those guys.
What’s the experience like when one day you’re in the AHL and the next you’re playing in the NHL? How did you handle the change and get comfortable so quickly?
In the American League I started the year there and a lot of the guys that ended up going to Dallas I played with. That definitely made it a lot easier for me, just knowing a couple of guys. You know, when you come in you’re kind of shy, you’re not sure what to say. I couldn’t ask for a better group of guys to be around, just to make life a lot easier, just to go for a dinners on the road. Luckily for me, I had Stephane Robidas, who’s from Sherbrooke, we both speak French. He really took me under his wing just trying to care of me. Things like that that you don’t really see as fans or outside the rink. But as a player, a young guy coming in, it really makes a big difference.
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