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?
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.
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.
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.