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.