"I’ve always felt I was one of those guys who could score 20 goals and put up some points on the board." - Jason Chimera, 9/19/10
The 2009-10 Washington Capitals were an offensive juggernaut. Their 313 regular season goals were historically impressive, and their seven 20-goal scorers demonstrated the depth of their scoring talent. Assuming that each of those magnificent seven snipers can once again reach the 20-goal plateau (not an unreasonable assumption), it's possible if not likely that the team will add an eighth to the group in Mike Green, who lit the lamp 31 times in 2008-09 and 19 times a season ago. But could Jason Chimera also realistically top 20? Despite the Training Camp optimism, probably not.
To begin with, Chimera has never scored more than 17 goals in an NHL season, a career-best total he registered for Columbus back in the first season coming out of the lockout. Since then, he has scored 15, 14, 8 and 15 goals and averaged 15.3 goals per 82 games. Granted, all but 39 of the 370 games he has played over the past five seasons were for the defense-first Columbus Blue Jackets. But his seven goals in 39 games for the Caps (eight in 46 if you include the playoffs) represents an even lower rate of scoring, in part the result of the reduced role he found post-trade - Chimera skated more than two minutes per game more in Columbus than he did in Washington last season.
Chimera has never been a power-play producer (tallying just a half-dozen goals with the man advantage in his 500-game NHL career, and never more than two in a single season), and if the 12 seconds of power-play time per game he got for the Caps last season is any indication of how he's going to be used in the season ahead, his quest for 20 goals will be made even more difficult - League-wide, not a single 20-goal scorer in 2009-10 failed to score at least once with the extra man on the campaign. (In fact, of the 578 20-goal seasons post-lockout, only Rene Bourque and Alexandre Burrows in 2008-09 accomplished the feat without potting a single one on the power-play.) Further to that point, a season ago, Eric Fehr and Tomas Fleischmann (both with scorers' pedigrees) became 20-goal scorers for the first time, thanks in large part to their power-play time (they scored three and seven power-play goals, respectively), and over the course of his three 20-goal seasons, Brooks Laich has nearly as many power-play markers (29) as even-strength tallies (36). Scoring in the NHL is hard. Scoring in the NHL without power-play time is even harder - in 2009-10, more than a quarter of all goals were scored a man or two up.
Of course, this isn't to say that a first career 20-goal season is unattainable for the 31-year-old Chimera. Accounts from training camp indicate that he, Mathieu Perreault and Fehr have displayed fantastic chemistry as a likely Caps third-line. But assuming that his role with the team stays the same, he maintains the same shots-per-game pace that he had as a (regular season) Cap last year, and he stays healthy for 82 games, he'd need to score on better than 14% of his shots on goal in order to hit 20 tallies for the season... and the career 9.5% shooter hasn't shot like that since 2002-03.
Ultimately, the difference between a 15- and a 20-goal season is literally a small handful of bounces here and there. And with an injury or two, Chimera could see his role as a scorer increase. But in order for him to score 20 goals this season, an awful lot will have to go right for him... and probably wrong for the team.