On the Matt Stajan Scratch

EDMONTON, CANADA - OCTOBER 16: Calgary Flames center Matt Stajan  stops with the puck against the Edmonton Oilers at the Scotiabank Saddledome on October 16, 2010 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. The Flames beat the Oilers 5-3. (Photo by Dylan Lynch/Getty Images)


Although the Flames have made a habit of scratching expensive defensemen this year, recently re-sisgned Matt Stajan has found himself in the stands for the last two contests. With the Flames winning the most recent game versus the Blue Jackets, it wouldn’t surprise me if Stajan finds himself munching popcorn again on Thursday.

In fact, an extended winning streak during what might be the softest portion of the Flames schedule this year could potentially make what was previously the clubs de facto "#1 center" a regular observer. Hardly an ideal situation. 

My opinion of Stajan hasn’t changed much since I first saw him in Flames colors last year: he’s just okay. He has some strengths (puck handling, vision) and some weaknesses (lackluster strength on his skates, terrible shot rate) that make the overall package acceptable if less than compelling. 

He’s an NHLer for sure and at best a complimentary center on a good team. If he’s not overpaid for his contributions, the truth is he’ll never be a bargain with his current $3.5 million ticket.

Like the player, Stajan’s results this season are just okay. HIs possession rate is solidly mediocre (+4.06/60). His 16 points in 25 games is right in line with his career average of 50-ish per season.

He boasts the best ES scoring rate amongst regular Flames forwards this year (2.96/60) although the truth is that number is inflated by his team best on-ice SH% 12.4% and team high number of second assists. Let’s just say, neither of those things are strong indicators of future offensive performance.

Stajan’s shot rate has also fallen down to near goon-like levels this year, with just 28 in 25 games played (he had 0 shots in his last 4 games before being kicked to the press box). Although Stajan has always looked to pass first during his NHL career, his current shot rate (1.12/game) puts him in line for his lowest total since his sophomore season in 2005-06. On top of all that, he’s played nearly a full hour on the PP and recorded nary a point.

On the other hand, I’m not sure what the club gains by keeping Stajan out of the active line-up. He’s certainly not the worst player amongst the regular skaters (err…Tom Kostopolous anyone?). Other guys up front on this club – particualrly other big ticket forwards – have been allowed to "play through" rough stretches by Sutter, even extended periods of ineffectiveness *cough* Jokinen *cough*.

So I’m not quite sure what compels Sutter to keep Stajan in the dgohouse.

Like Vancouver and their overabundance of same-ish guys on defense, I suppose there was always a risk of a big ticket getting pushed down the depth chart here in Calgary a la Keith Ballard over there this season, but it still strikes me as a…curious use of an asset. And while I’m starting to get used to some $6M+ in cap space sitting in the press box every night,

I think it behooves the organization to find a use for the player on the ice or in the trade market here, sooner rather than later. The longer they fail to do the former, the more difficult the latter becomes, if being trade fodder is to be his ultimate fate.

  • icedawg_42

    Matt Stajan has the 56th highest cap hit amongst centremen in the league according to nhlnumbers.com. That would seem to make him an averagely paid 2nd line centre. Probably a few caveats that some ELCs are given cap hits at $3.725 but I think the general assessment stands.

    Matt Stajan has the 48th most points in the league. That would seem to be a pretty average number for 2nd line centres at this point in the season, although admittedly some guys under him probably deliver more value in their own end of the rink.

    It seems that Stajan has been delivering fairly closely in line with his value. My critique of Sutter on these deals is not that they are brutal overpays, but they are not bargains either.

    The problem with this roster is too many of these middle rank guys. Even if we give Sutter the benefit of the doubt on the Langkow injury, our centre depth is a) Langkow, a 1st line-2nd line guy and paid like it – b) Stajan, a 2nd line guy and paid like it – c) Jokinen, a 2nd line falling off into 3rd line guy, and paid like it d) assorted random others (Backlund, Conroy, Morrison).

    If we split the 50 minutes of ice time that the top 3 centres would get Langkow 20, Stajan 15, Jokinen 15. Lets assume the centremen are generally reflective of their lines abilities. that is 20 minutes where we might play the other teams best to even, 15 minutes where we would play the second best to even and 15 minutes where we should outplay the other teams third best. We could flip it around and give Langkow’s line 10 of the 20 minutes against the other teams second line, but that would leave Calgary’s second or third line exposed to the other teams first line. That strategy is a wash on average.

    That basically means this team is constructed to win games in the 15 minutes or so that our third line is on the ice. And even then, only to a marginally better result on average. And it relies on Olli Jokinen.

    • BobB

      I see Stajan with 150th points in that league (and 119th in PPG)????… AND that’s only relying on the numbers without context. EDIT: ahhh, you’re counting only centres. That makes sense.

      As Kent pointed out, Stajan has an abundance of second assists…meaning, that he isn’t driving plays with those points. (6 second assists)

      So, he’s playing first line minutes (mostly) and in 25 games he’s got 1 goal and 9 first assists.

      For someone playing with Iggy and Tanguay that just isn’t enough.

      1 goal, 9 assist players are 281 (80th for centres) in the league.

      So Stajan certainly isn’t as bad as 281 (cause those other guys have 2nd assists as well.) BUT, he may only be getting those assists cause he’s playing with Iggy (5th pts – RW) and Tanguay (13th pts – LW).

      It’s arguable, Stajan is not even 150th (48th by centres) in the league. That’s maybe not second line centre level, and he’s playing first.

      Tanguay, on the other hand, has been amazing, and is likely our best value player.

      Morrison? Top scoring centre – 18 points…5 goals. It’s impressive. Does he get a shot on the first line? I’d prefer Backlund. Hell what have we got to lose. I say play Mikki’s brains out.

      • BobB

        Yeah, my post said players but as you astutely pointed out I was only counting centres. Sorry for the confusion.

        As for the second assists, I have no idea what the ratio is on average but this article sums up my thoughts on it: http://hockeynumbers.blogspot.com/2007/03/first-and-second-assists.html

        I think the assessment of “playing 1st line minutes putting up 2nd line numbers” is fair, but we at least have to keep in mind he is doing it playing first line competition as well. behindthenet.ca has him at what would appear to be first line comp in the various Qualcomp stats amongst Calgary forwards.(I am ignoring the Raitis Ivanans Irregularity)

        behindthenet.ca also has him at the 9th most Points/60 minutes of icetime amongst centres with minimum 5 games played at 2.95/60?! If that number is real, and the comp numbers are real (as opposed to some trick of the math), it seems to me that he is at least living up to the $3.5 million contract, but not exactly a value contract.

        Brendan Morrison is doing it against lesser competition (12-9-12 in the various qual comp stats). A valuable skill, but I don’t think it qualifies you for top line minutes.

        Definitely agree on Tanguay. I liked that deal from day one.

  • icedawg_42

    butter says there are 2 reasons guys are scratched. either not playing to potential or hurt. si is this rule applied across the board? guess they expect more from mats.

  • Howse was our only prospect for the Canadian team.

    I believe John Ramage will play for USA again, not sure if we have any prospects on other teams. Tried to search it but couldn’t find anything.

  • BobB

    I think there a are a number of players who should be bought out, traded or put on waivers to make room on our cap. Moss may have some trade value but at 1.3 mil cap-hit and for someone who is on pace for 20 points is steep. Ivanans is finished as an enforcer in the NHL and needs to be dealt with as well. Maybe we can trade Bourque, Moss and Stajan for Spezza and Winchester?? To have a true number 1 center play with Iginla and Tanguay would be great to watch and maybe bring some stability to our 1st line. A lot of our secondary scoring woes (IMO) can be linked to Bourques inconsistent, and lazy play. I find that he has the ability to raise his line-mates game, as well as bring it down, and far too often I see the latter. This team has what it takes to be a contender and am baffled at how bad we are doing this year with the likes of Kipper and Iggy anchoring our team.

  • SmellOfVictory

    Yeah, has anyone done any rigorous analysis of first assists vs second assists? A great breakout pass could end up as a second assist, or a good play in the zone that leads to a shot against the pads and a rebound goal, for example. Conversely, a first assist could be passing the puck two feet to your team’s franchise forward followed by him skating it halfway up the rink and scoring, or a shot that misses the net unintentionally and gets picked up/converted by someone else.

    Primary assists may well have more intrinsic value than secondary assists, but unless there’s actual evidence of it recorded somewhere we may as well just call an assist an assist.

  • @ Lawrence.

    I disagree that those who wanted Phaneuf traded shouldn’t complain (except for your point of it being pointless because what’s done is done).

    I was in the camp to trade him, not because he sucked (and who ever knows about the “locker room” rumors), but because he wasn’t as good as his cap hit and still had a name around the league as a blue chip defender. Even now people see him as that despite his really crappy start in TO. My guess is the Leafs could get more from him now than we did then despite him not showing much of anything recently. And no, I have no evidence to that. it’s just a guess.

    I see it as a mismanagement of assets. If DS needed to wait for his value to increase or for a GM to trade with who was desperate/gullible then he should have done so. You can disagree but it doesn’t mean there is no argument to be critical.

    And although the trade itself didn’t return full value (perceived or real), the worst part is he traded for a)more of the same thing the team has plenty of, ie. decent players but not great, or b) players of a certain ilk that are not too difficult to acquire even if we did actually need them.

    • SmellOfVictory

      +1 to that. I’ll admit I was a little too high on White when he came over initially, but he did play well for that last bit of the year. Still would’ve been optimal for Phaneuf+Aulie to have gotten a young top-6 forward and a forward prospect with a similar projected ceiling to Aulie’s.