Matt Stajan: Redemption? (Part 2 of 2)

Arik
May 21 2012 11:42AM

 

On Wednesday I looked at the fall of Matt Stajan and came to the conclusion that his rapid decline was in part due to a bubble bursting (he wasn't that good to begin with, and the boxcars caught up with his ability) and in part due to the vagueries of player performance variance and in part due to falling out of favor with his head coach.

Today I want to look like what a quality season that is either at his contract level (or not far from it) would look like and what it'd take for him to get there.

With a cap hit of $3.5M, Stajan finds himself earning about a million more than the average cap hit- $2.453M- that I calculated in my article "On Value: Cap Hits and Perception". So while I established what a average contract player looks like in that article, what should a player earning a million more look like? 

Player GP G A P G*82 A*82 P*82 Delta
Ryder 82 35 27 62 35 27 62 0
Upshall 26 2 3 5 6.31 9.46 15.77 0
Tanguay 64 13 36 49 16.66 46.13 62.78 0
Lombardi 62 8 10 18 10.58 13.23 23.81 0
Cullen 78 12 27 39 12.62 28.38 41 0
  73 14 21 35 15.73 23.59 39.32  
Hecht 79 21 21 42 21.80 21.80 43.59 25,000.00
  67 12 17 29 14.69 20.81 35.49  
  22 4 4 8 14.91 14.91 29.82  
Stoll 73 16 31 47 17.97 34.82 52.79 100,000.00
  82 20 23 43 20 23 43  
  78 6 15 21 6.31 15.77 22.08  
Zubrus 51 10 17 27 16.08 27.33 43.41 100,000.00
  79 13 17 30 13.49 17.65 31.14  
  82 17 27 44 17 27 44  
Williams 82 22 37 59 22 37 59 150,000.00
Bourque 80 27 23 50 27.68 23.58 51.25 166,667.00
  76 18 6 24 19.42 6.47 25.89  
AVG 68.67 15 20.11 35.11 17.91 24.02 40.34 54,166.70
                 
                 
Stajan 76 6 25 31 6.47 26.97 33.45  
  61 8 10 18 10.75 13.44 24.20  
    7 17.5 24.5     28.82  

A quick explanation of the above table: these players are the ten forwards closest to Stajan in terms of cap hit last season. I also eliminated players whose contracts were non-UFA signed. I also ignored Gagne for obvious reasons and the season where Lombardi played two games.

The delta number is the absolute difference (regardless of it being above or below him) in the players contract and Stajan's contract. For each player I used the last three seasons in which they had a contract that was in the Stajan range- if they didn't have three, I just used what they did have (that's why Bourque has two, Zubrus three, and Williams one). The "*82" columns are pro-rated numbers, and I've included them for all the usual reasons. Finally, the AVG row is just that: the averages of the ten forwards listed.

Discussion

What this table tells us is that an average $3.5M player will score about 40 points in a season, with a range of 16-63 (all numbers rounded and pro-rated). While there were certainly worse contracts than Stajan last year, most were far better in terms of production.

In short, if Stajan were to fulfill his contract "potential", he'd hopefully score something in the realm of 15-25-40. If he were to gain a boost in icetime and SH%, that's not only possible, but likely.

What is excluded from the table is obviously concerns like quality of competition and possession capabilities. Clearly if Stajan was playing as a shut-down forward, his output wouldn't be as contentious an issue. Unfortunately, Stajan has developed as neither a top-6 scorer or capable checker during his time in Calgary and even his efforts against bottom-six type player last year indicate he's never going to become a two-center or PK/shut-down specialist.

Stajan's ceiling is therefore in the 3rd center/2nd PP type role where he can play against other teams third lines and kick in 30-40 points a year.

Opportunities

Assuming the Flames don't use some sort of amnesty clause to buy-out Stajan when the next CBA comes about, the best news for Matty Franchise is that Sutter is no longer behind the bench in Calgary. It became abundantly clear that Brent had no use for the player once his older brother was shuffled out of town, so Stajan was given very few opportunities to work his way out of the dog house. 

The new coach may not be as unforgiving of Stajan's various weaknesses and could therefore work a bit harder to put him in a situation to succeed.

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Arik works in Search and Rescue in the United States Coast Guard and is a former managing editor of the SBN Flames blog, Matchsticks and Gasoline.
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#1 Kent Wilson
May 22 2012, 04:48PM
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@Graham

There are very few available top-6 type centers. The UFA market is pitifully thin. The best of the bunch is Jokinen, Stoll, Hecht and Chris Kelly. I repeat, that's the best market has to offer.

Only way to get a real upgrade on anything Calgary already has is through trade.

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#2 negrilcowboy
May 21 2012, 11:50AM
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stajan is the highest paid short order greasey spoon cook in cowtown. his contract is absolutely brtal, no wonder why we are headed to a lockout when a han n egger like this wins the lottery year after year. matts stajan has always been cottonelle soft.

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#4 Sincity1976
May 21 2012, 12:10PM
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Having an uphill battle to be average is the typical approach the Flames have taken so Stajan should fit right in!

Joke aside Stajan is a passable 3-line C when deployed correctly by his coach.

He should have torn up the fourth line competition similar to players like Morrison or Backlund before him. The fact that he didn't speaks against him. But given the type of player Stajan is that isn't really surprising. He isn't built as a checker. He isn't built to play between two checkers either.

He is a decent 2-way player. Good play maker. Decent at face offs.

I think he has at least a good of chance as Cervenka at putting up 50+ points in a top 6 role. The guy was doing just that before being put under Brent Sutter.

People talk about Cervenka being Jokinen's replacement. I think Stajan is built to be Jokinen's replacement.

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#5 Kevin R
May 21 2012, 01:33PM
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@ Sincity: All the more reason Joker should not be resigned! We are basically stuck with Stajan & quite frankly what I see here is a player that will probably produce what Joker is going to produce next year. Unless something changes on the CBA, 2 years is too long to eat a cap hit on a buyout. Play him next year knowing expectations for next year are going to be very low. Buy him out in the last year of his contract or maybe he may be worth a 5th rounder at the trade deadline next year. Who knows, maybe Arik is right & he rebounds & is either worth keeping the following year or his value increases to maybe a 2nd or 3rd round pick. I'll believe that when I see it.

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#6 SmellOfVictory
May 21 2012, 02:33PM
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I was going to say, I think context (which you briefly touched on) is a major thing in this situation. Going from memory, almost all of those comparables have more points than Stajan AND they play in tougher circumstances/do better at it.

If you were to ask me to rank them in terms of who I'd rather have on my team, Stajan would only be higher than Bourque and Upshall. That doesn't speak well for him.

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#7 FireOnIce
May 21 2012, 03:46PM
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I like how during Stajan's tenure in Calgary, he's gone from having hair to almost balding completely, and he's only in his late 20s. He looked so dejected earlier in the season and just sounded like he didn't want to play hockey anymore.

The man needs a confidence boost. Maybe he starts off hot and is actually useful (to the tune of 40-50 points) this season. Otherwise, pray for an amnesty clause and hope we can cut him loose.

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#8 Sincity1976
May 21 2012, 03:47PM
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@SmellOfVictory

They also all played significantly more minutes, had better line-mates, and had time on the PP.

The bottom line is Stajan didn't fit into Sutter's system of faceless interchangeable players and so found himself relegated to fourth line duties. His inability to produce as a checking forward kept him there.

He isn't devoid of any responsibility. It isn't like he made an irrefutable case to be kept in the top 6. But the context here is the lack of opportunity more so then the soft circumstances.

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#9 loudogYYC
May 21 2012, 04:03PM
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Nice article Arik, it always helps to have some context.

If Feaster goes and signs Jokinen to a decent 2 year, $6M contract, that would give the Flames actual depth at 3rd line C!! The things we celebrate these days...

Really though, next season he's a $3.5M cap hit with a real salary of $2.5. To some teams, that makes him twice as attractive as a trade option and I doubt Feaster's too eager to keep him.

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#10 Austin
May 21 2012, 04:27PM
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Just thought of this, but remember Ryan Howse how he showed up to Abby total out of shape and with no work ethic. Think how Troy Ward turned him around. Could Troy Ward turn Matt Stajan into a dominating third liner, or a capable top 6. Maybe, who know's.

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#11 negrilcowboy
May 21 2012, 04:54PM
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maybe benny hynn or reverend jim can perform some divine intervention and resurrect mats to his career high 57 points.

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#12 Colin.S
May 22 2012, 09:43AM
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I think Stajan could redeem himself if he's motivated to start the year and the new coach gives him half a chance, if he gets that 40-50 points he is very easily traded after the year as well.

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#13 Kent Wilson
May 22 2012, 10:14AM
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Stajan's issue is now the team has begun to "move on" without him. Assuming they keep Backlund and Cervenka, they will be slotted ahead of Mat on the depth chart. Then you have Blair Jones who will likely get the checking assignment. If they move Cammalleri to center to accommodate Baertschi, there is once again little room for Stajan in any sort of meaningful offensive role. And that's before they sign anyone.

My bet is there is an amnesty clause and the Flames buy him out.

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#14 Levi de Groot
May 22 2012, 11:32AM
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shoulda kept lombardi! he was my fav. player on the flames. and he is so stinkin fast!

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#15 Colin.S
May 22 2012, 11:50AM
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@Kent Wilson

100% that if there is an amnesty clause the Flames buy him out. Babachuk only has one year left and no one else is worth a buy out(would have been nice for Kotalik last year to keep our second).

One thing I disagree on though, moving Cammalleri to accommodate Baertschi. Camm plays RW and Baertschi LW. I think it would be a bit much of the Flames to put Baertschi on the second line and then change his position to start his NHL career. I still see Baertschi on the third line with Backlund to start, couldn't be a better way to start, playing with the best possession/two way forward on the team with probably some decent zone starts.

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#16 Kent Wilson
May 22 2012, 12:34PM
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@Colin.S

Cammalleri has usually played left wing in the NHL. That's why him and Iginla were on the same line a couple of years ago and during the start of his recent stint.

He might be able to play right wing (I know Glencross does sometimes too), but outside of C, LW has been his main position in the league.

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#17 Colin.S
May 22 2012, 12:46PM
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Really? I know he was centering Iggy for a bunch there, but I though the second line was pretty well GlennX on the left and Camm on the Right with whoever centering them, sometimes Horak, sometimes Stajan and whoever else wasn't injured at the time.

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#18 Baalzamon
May 22 2012, 01:27PM
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most wingers--especially left-shooting ones--can play either side. This "RW/LW thing shouldn't be an issue.

Especially considering that LW and RW are practically the same position anyway. this isn't a wing-to-center shift we're talking about or anything. I'm thinking that, if Baertschi is shifted to the right for some reason, he takes about fourteen seconds to make the adjustment.

how did a Stajan topic turn into a Cammalleri positional discussion?

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#19 Sincity1976
May 22 2012, 01:55PM
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@Kent Wilson

I am not sure I agree that the organization has moved on from Stajan.

Cervenka hasn't played a game in the NHL yet. Backlund has one 25-point season behind him. Jones hasn't played his 100th game in the NHL yet and is a bottom 6 checker. Cervenka > Backlund > Jones doesn't inspire much confidence as the Flames C depth.

They have Cammalleri, Horak, and Bouma as options. But Horak and Bouma is quantity as opposed to quality as far as top 6 options go. And I don't like Cammalleri as a C. He is small. He isn't a good puck distributor. He isn't strong defensively. He has earned his ticket from scoring from the slot, often with his token one timer. In short he is a winger.

I agree they are stacked at LW with Cammalleri, Tanguay, Glencross, and Baertschi. But they are dreadful on RW. Chances are they trade away a LW or they convert one or more to the RW. So I don't think they have to move Cammalleri to C to make room for Baertschi.

They could very well buy-out Stajan. But if they do it is because they are going in another direction at C such as signing Jokinen, another UFA such as Stoll, or addressing the position via trade. I don't think they buy him out and then go forward with their present situation at C.

Even if they do acquire another C that still doesn't mean they buy out Stajan. He could still be a top 6 C under another coach. As I said above he is more likely to do that then Cervenka or Backlund. You can always move a C to wing. Cervenka spent his time in the KHL as a LW. Backlund can play LW. Jones plays RW. If you don't have a guaranteed option then having multiple options may be the best solution.

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#20 Kent Wilson
May 22 2012, 02:29PM
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@Sincity1976

Fair enough. I was speculating based on his and the other players usage from last year under Sutter which may well change. I'd be very surprised if Cervenka doesn't get every chance to succeed when he lands in town, but he could fall on his face as well.

My money remains on "buy-out" however.

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#21 Graham
May 22 2012, 02:38PM
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@'Sincity1976'

'Cervenka > Backlund > Jones doesn't inspire much confidence as the Flames C depth'

At this point you have to take Feaster at his word, and accept that he wants a competitive team next year. Cervenka, Backlund and Jones just don't cut it, so I have to assume (hope, pray) that Feaster has a plan to add in a top 6 center in the off season.

Not a lot available through free agency, and lack of supply will drive up the contracts, and the prices paid in the open trade market. Jokinen is an option, but it would have to be a two year, $3 million per type of deal, and he is likely to get much more on the open market. I suspect Feaster will have to test the open market and pay up for a quality top 6 center.

I still don't see Iggy / Kipper being traded, so I have to question the wisdom of bring back to many of our UFA's.... to me, Feaster signing a bunch of the existing guys signals one more run with the same group...blah!

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#22 Sincity1976
May 22 2012, 04:44PM
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@Kent

I agree Cervenka will get an opportunity in a top 6 roll. I think Backlund gets the same opportunity. But I don't think the organization can bank on both being successful.

@Graham

If Feaster goes after a guy like Stastney I would be unsurprised. I am hoping he is smart enough to see that Jokinen is a short term solution and a long term detriment if signed to the wrong contract. But I don't have a problem with relying on Cervenka>Backlund>Jones IF they have Stajan and Cammalleri as a safety net.

Tanguay-Cervenka-Iginla/Baertschi-Backlund-Cammalleri/Glencross-Stajan-Moss/Bouma-Jones-Jackman

That isn't a horrible line-up if Cervenka and Backlund turn out. If not Stajan moves up or Cammalleri moves over. (Moss could be replaced by Nemisz, Jones, Comeau, or Stempniak)

It is also supported by Byron, Horak, Reinhart, Aliu, Nemisz, Eddy, and Kolanos as depth.

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#23 John Deere Green
May 22 2012, 09:03PM
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@ Kent

Would you personally take Stoll over Jokinen? I have always liked the way Stoll played the game and is he not decent on both sides of the puck? Wonder what he would ask for a contract. I think he's younger than Jokinen as well isn't he? Just a thought.

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#24 internuncial
May 23 2012, 09:18AM
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@FireOnIce

Stajan doesn't need a confidence boost to solve his problems, his problem is that he NEEDS a confidence boost. Big difference. Good players (i.e. NHL'ers) need confidence to play, and you can see that with lots of guys (all?) it comes and goes. When you're an athlete at any level, you have to pull yourself up, provide your own motivation and make things happen. Don't give me any carp about being dejected or being in the doghouse or not having confidence. If you're an athlete at any level, that is YOUR JOB to fix it. If you're a professional athlete, making millions, you better figure it out fast.

No, Stajan's problem is not of a coach's/GM's/fans' doing. It is of his own doing because he is soft in the head. The first thing he should do about it is accept responsibility for it. The best thing we can do as fans is refuse to give him his crutches.

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