NHL Mailbag: How 'for real' is Thomas Chabot?

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It was a week of insanely big stories.

Stevens fired, Quenneville fired, the Uber video, Milan Lucic trying to kill some guy I’ve never heard of. The list goes on.

So yeah, most of the questions this week were about that and we got a pretty good batch this week if you ask me.

Let’s hash this out:

TJ asks: “Are the Sabres actually good finally?”

It depends how you define good, I guess.

After Wednesday’s games they’re right on the playoff bubble, fifth in the Atlantic but with more games played than both Boston and Montreal, who are two points ahead despite the disadvantage.

It is, of course, Nov. 7, but if you told me that Buffalo ends up in the playoffs this year I’d believe you, I guess. The Metro stinks right now and I guess I could see it continuing to some extent, so if they’re like a 95-point team at the end of the year, that might work for them.

But you gotta take it with a grain of salt because everything runs through the Skinner-Eichel-Pominville line. Those guys combined have 21 goals. The rest of the forwards have 16. They’ve been dynamite together but just like the Bruins, if someone finds a way to shut that down, one of them gets hurt, or they get broken up to “spread the wealth” this team’s gonna run into some serious problems all of a sudden.

They also need Carter Hutton to be better than he has been.

But if you’re defining good as, “good relative to other Sabres teams in recent memory” they’re phenomenal.

Matt asks: “What’s your take on Chabot? Is this dude for real or what?”

(Getty).
(Getty).

Here, too, how are we defining “for real?”

Because all his numbers before he got to the NHL suggested that he was really good. And he’s only 22 years old. But his 5-on-5 PDO is currently 102.2, so the idea that he’s going to keep scoring at better-than-Erik-Karlsson levels (right now he has 4-16-20 in 15 games) is silly.

Again, he rules. Really good young defender on a team that needs bright spots. But the team as a whole is shooting 12 percent and that isn’t going to last forever. That kind of number can’t last for even the most skilled teams in the league, but this is the Senators we’re talking about so, c’mon.

Temper your expectations here but this kid is probably going to be a high-end defender in this league for many years to come.

Greg asks: “Who is the best UFA defenseman under 30 next year?”

I’m assuming you mean “other than Erik Karlsson” because the answer is very obviously Erik Karlsson if you don’t.

But even after that, it’s kind of a slam dunk: Jake Gardiner. The only other U-30 guys even hitting the market are Tyler Myers, Mike Del Zotto, Patrik Nemeth, Jan Rutta, Alex Petrovic and a few others who frankly aren’t worth even bringing up on this list. But I’m just trying to illustrate how fast that drop-off comes.

There are some intriguing options at RFA (Trouba, Werenski, Ben Hutton, Will Butcher, Neal Pionk) but overall it’s a whole lot of no-thanks guys. And also because we’re talking about RFAs, none of them are getting offer-sheeted.

But yeah for UFAs, it’s a pretty clear 1-2-3 from Karlsson to Gardiner to Myers, assuming any of them get that far.

MDS asks: “What do you think this season’s ceiling is for my beautiful Swedish son Elias Pettersson?”

As with Chabot, I’m not expecting him to keep THIS up. He’s got 10-6-16 in 10 games, but he’s shooting almost 36 percent, so that goals number is gonna come down.

But as with Auston Matthews’ hot start, you have to say: a) he banked 10 goals already, and b) he’s got a high enough skill level to keep scoring at a well-above-average rate.

He’s shooting the puck 2.8 times a game, which is a good number but not a great one. That said, even if his shooting percentage drops to 12 percent and never shoots the puck more often than he does right now starting tonight against Boston, that means he’s still going to score basically a goal almost every other game for the rest of the year.

If he shoots like that the entire rest of the season, he probably ends up with something like 32 or 33 goals. That would probably feel like a little bit of a letdown, but he missed six games here and 32 would be still be good for a seventh-place tie in rookie goalscoring since the start of the salary cap era.

But I’m going to be a little more optimistic than that number and say he can hit a Patrik Laine-level scoring threshold of 35 or 36 as a rookie. That feels about right to me.

Probably puts him in the neighborhood of 60-65 points, which is also Laine-level.

You’d take that.

Jordan asks: “Why is Milan Lucic?”

Here’s the thing with Lucic: His contract makes him bulletproof from a “can’t bench him” perspective but also creates the kind of pressure on the man himself to do SOMEthing.

He has 1-1-2 at full strength in 15 games this season, which is pathetic for a guy making the kind of money he does. He’s on pace to be worse — a lot worse — than he was last year when he had 10 goals and 24 assists in the full 82.

So if everyone is saying he sucks (he does) and he’s not worth his contract (he isn’t) and it’s all embarrassing for him and the organization alike (it is), then yeah he’s gonna feel the need to be a $6-million enforcer and try to kill some fourth-line 22-year-old or whatever.

If you wanna say it’s Peter Chiarelli’s fault, I can’t argue the point.

Lawnie asks: “Chicago probably should have kept Q in perpetuity, since he’s a once-in-a-generation coach. Gimme a scenario where firing him does make sense?”

I think it makes a lot of sense if you’re a super-overrated GM who mismanaged your cap situation over a period of years and engaged in a half-decade power struggle with a popular All-World coach who won three Stanley Cups, but you wanna keep your job so your dad doesn’t get mad at you.

Mike asks: “Are there any Triple Gold Club guys with 400-plus goals who aren’t getting into the Hall of Fame?”

This comes up because Eric Staal recently crossed the 400-goal threshold and is indeed a member of the Triple Gold Club, but I was curious how many guys even fit into this group, because it has to be pretty exclusive.

I was right. Only six guys ever have joined the Triple Gold Club (Stanley Cup, World Championship, Olympic Gold) and scored at least 400 goals in the NHL: Sid Crosby, Jaromir Jagr, Alex Mogilny, Joe Sakic, Brendan Shanahan, and now Eric Staal.

Everyone but Staal is a clear Hall of Famer (how Mogilny isn’t in yet is extremely beyond me). But I’d hesitate to put Staal even if he closes in on 500 goals over the last few years of his career. He’s extremely a Hall of Very Good guy for me.

Interestingly, the only guy who only needs the goals to get there and is within striking distance is Corey Perry, who’s currently 34 away, but basically all but done for his age-33 season and who knows what he’ll have left in the tank when he comes back. Patrice Bergeron is 104 goals away, so that’s not likely to happen.

I’d put Bergeron in the Hall before Perry or Staal, given the choice, but mostly it’s a no for me on all three.

Ryan Lambert is a Yahoo! Sports hockey columnist. His email is here and his Twitter is here.

All stats via Corsica unless noted otherwise. Some questions in the mailbag are edited for clarity or to remove swear words, which are illegal to use.

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