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.

  • T&A4Flames

    I hope somebody showed Stajan where the weight room is before being scratched. It would do him well to use it instead of eating popcorn in the rafters. Soooooo sooooooffffftttt.

  • SmellOfVictory

    Despite his softness, Stajan’s good enough defensively to balance out a lot of his turnovers. It makes him an incredibly mediocre player overall, but I don’t think he’s terrible – just frustrating.

  • CitizenFlame

    To me Stajan is just another example of a player who has been slotted in higher on the depth chart than what he is capable of. He is a servicable center, probably best suited to a 2nd or 3rd line role, as most forwards on this team are. Hopefully Stajan becomes that player Darryl Sutter thought he would become when he signed him to that contract. But right now he is another overpaid underachieving forward on this team.

    Who is Calgary’s eastern pro scout? Goulet does the west right? Who ever does the east should be fired. Jokinen has been a bust, White bombed out, Stajan is a healthy scratch with 1 goal in his last 43 contests…Babchuk… I almost forgot Kotalik. Has Darryl traded for anyone good out of the eastern conference?

    • Agree completely.

      Daryl has used the “square peg for a round hole” strategy for pretty much everything he does. Unfortunately, he also pays the players commensurate with what he wants the players to do and not what they are capable of doing.

      Stajan – 2nd -3rd line centre with some defensive skill being used and paid as a 1st line centre.

      Staios – given time on the power play.

      Backlund – 1st round pick being molded as a defensive centre.

      Moss – treated like a 20 goal scorer, as opposed to a guy who (miraculously) scored 20 goals (and will never repeat that feat).

      Babchuk – criticized by coaches for not being good defensively. He was never good defensively and you just traded to get him.

      Jokinen/Kotalik – both are long past their prime and the team still hopes that they can get back the magic they had 5 years ago!

      The list could go on for the whole roster in terms of players being used for almost the opposite of what they are good at.

      The reason Daryl gives out so many NTC’s is because he never makes any mistakes.

    • BobB

      wouldn’t the director of player development have insight into the talent levels of various teams in the east, seeing that he spent years in a similiar role with the panthers. panthers isnt that where ollie had most of his sucess? oh i never seen the connection before. so is ollie duanes guy?

      • CitizenFlame

        Sure why not… lets through another Sutter under the bus while we’re at it. The more the merrier!

        And for the record I don’t hate Stajan. I just think that he has been put in a position to not succeed. If Calgary had a number one center then Stajan probably does well vs. lesser comp. To me this either means that Olli was still believed to be the #1 guy or the team believes that Backlund will get there in two years. Backlund, Stajan, as our 1,2 centers. Does that make sense?

        • BobB

          backlund as 1, stajan as 3 makes more sense in the longterm. however, the flames are paying mats frontline dollars today and the next couple of years. yes if mats was being played against lesser lites his numbers and contribution would be enhanced. so is mats being mishandled, if so then thats a coaching issue. as the principle return in the dion trade, and i will be the first to admit dion was overhyped overpaid and over rated by the flames stajan ain’t cuttin the mustard.

    • I think I can count on one hand the number of players Darryl has signed in the last few years that didn’t get a NTC of some kind. The only guys I can think of are Ian White, Tim Jackman, Raitis Ivanans, uh…

    • Gange

      It’s kind of redundant really.

      Guys like Stajan and Jokinen have a NMC by way of a contract. I mean really, who’s going to trade for Olli at 3M? Stajan?


  • icedawg_42

    Darryl Sutter hands out NMC’s to players the same way he hands out draft picks to GM’s — Just like Halloween candy! – anyone who doesn’t think he has to go needs to dunk their head in the snow.

  • BobB

    You know what I’ll never understand based on previous conversations and where this one is trending to? This:.

    1. Last year around this time, the general consensus seemed to be:

    We NEED to trade Dion. Too much $ on the D. He’s terrible defensively, akin to Jovo, ain’t even THAT great offensively, is trouble in the room and is a pompous jerk.

    I personally didn’t see it this way and remember arguing with the masses about trading him, defending, primarily that he was young, and secondarily his value was poor at the time and we’d get bad return for who he is.

    2. NOW…

    So many people are thrashing Sutter for the return. WTF? Look, -TK for Sjostrom. Lateral move.

    -Babchuk for Aulie (this may become a big loss, but don’t forget that Aulie would be about 10th on our “d” depth chart trending up, playing in the AHL with Brodie.)

    -So, we got Stajan (the man of the hour) and Hagman for Phaneuf.

    What the hell did people expect for a defenseman that nearly everyone described as an overrated, pompous, bum who can’t play d.

    Did you think we’d get 16 first rounders, Malkin and Jesus? I’d say, considering the timing, Hagman and Stajan for Phaneuf isn’t that awful and I still saw value in Phaneuf on this team. This was mostly based on the fact that Sarich + other (now Staois) are nearly the same cap hit, and they aren’t Dion. But, we aren’t getting Stajan OR Hagman for Sarich.

    Stajan may suck balls right now (which I was concerned about and said then that he was WAY overpaid…to the tune of 1 mil.) BUT the Neuf-dog was getting BOOOED in Toronto, and scored his first goal yesterday (granted he was hurt).

    People….grab reality and hang on to it.

    • So your position on the Phaneuf trade is…what?

      1.) We should have kept him, even though he’s getting booed in TOR and likely is never going to be worth his salary?

      2.) We should have hung onto to him to deal him later when his value may have been higher?

      3.) We should have dealt him at the time and this is the best return we could have gotten anyways, so people should stop lamenting the trade?

      I honestly don’t know.

      • BobB

        1. I think we should have kept him. As the to-date cap hit of Jbo, Reggie, Dion, Gio, Pardy, Mikkel, + 7th man would be 20 mil, only 200K more than it is today (with our crazy-8). AND.. most importantly it would be 1.8mil LESS than it was when we HAD White then vs Babchuk now. I thought the reason for trading Dion, was “it doesn’t work having all that money in the back-end.”

        Buy-out, trade or bury Sarich if you have to, to keep Dion.

        I think you can run around 22mil hit on the d corps this and next year. Any significant amount more is too much for a full cap team (Van is ~25mil.). So Gio would have to come back for ~3.5, to keep Dion and the cap in check. It’s very reasonable.

        this also opens up the opportunity for your #2.

        2. I think people who WANTED Dion moved (the majority it seemed), SHOULD stop lamenting the trade. George Johnson wrote today that Toronto won the trade hands down. For the people who wanted Dion gone… I don’t think that should be true at all, and even if it is, it’s foolhardy to dwell on that in hindsight. It’s even more questionable to hold that against Sutter. Darryl has done things I don’t support, and he didn’t do what I wanted with Dion, but even I don’t hold the Dion move as a strike against him. I don’t know how those who wanted Dion gone, can.

        Move on, those who thought Dion was shit then, don’t change that position now.

      • BobB

        Oh, and lastly Kent.

        I’d rather have the leagues most overpaid 4th defender in a 25 yr old Dion, than any combination of the leagues most overpaid (and equally so) 7th and 8th defenders in 33yr old Sarich and 37yr old Staios sitting in the press box.

        But, hey, everyone called me crazy last year for endlessly arguing that we should keep him. So, let’s not forget to boo Dion tonight cause of how much worse off we were with him.

    • CitizenFlame

      I don’t like Sutter’s trades with eastern teams, I’m not a huge Malkin fan either, but that Jesus guy, I’d be willing to give him a look, after all he’s only from the middle east.

  • icedawg_42

    “team high number of second assists.”

    Looking at the boxscores he has 9 first assist and 6 second assists. I am just wondering who is second and third for second assists.

  • icedawg_42

    In my opinion moving Dion was still the right thing to do, however by MANY accounts (from GM’s in the NHL) Sutter didn’t even shop him, so please forgive me for continuing to thrash on the return! (Frankly though, I really like Hagman as a player, always have and will continue to)- The return for Phaneuf (in my eyes) is just a symptom of the real problem – being knee-jerk fashion he made the move, and the continued mis-management of assets. That’s what I think p!sses people off.

    • BobB

      “the real problem – being knee-jerk fashion he made the move, and the continued mis-management of assets.”

      That’s, put plainly, just silly.

      First, Nobody has any idea that the move was “knee-jerk.” period.

      Second, the management of assets is what I was addressing. Most seemed to describe Phaneuf as anything but an asset. YET, people seem to have the idea, that it was OUR BIG SECRET. That everyone else would think he was awesome. Either he sucked, or he didn’t. Either he was a great asset or he wasn’t much of one.

      I don’t think Darryl is the one having problems being consistent in his assessments of how much of an ass(et) Phaneuf was.

  • icedawg_42

    prior to Jan 1 2010 Calgary still among the best records in the NHL
    Jan 28 2010 Flames losing streak extended to 9 games. Jan 31 2010 Dion Phaneuf traded to Toronto in a “blockbuster” deal. There’s no way you’ll ever convince me that Sutter was assessing Dion Phaneuf’s trade value before January 1st. To me this screams “knee jerk” – if it doesnt say the same to you, so be it. As for the asset management, as for who thought he was awesome or not, and what they were willing to give up, we’ll never know, and neither will Darryl Sutter because by all accounts he didn’t even try.

    • icedawg_42

      I agree with Icedawg; it does scream knee jerk. Signing stajan to a 5 year deal made no sense. Signing a guy like J-bow made sense, he put up decent numbers and gave you reason to believe he is worth it. What did Stajan do, buy Sutter dinner???

      I used to really respect the way Darryl ran this team, but look at the last 10 players we have traded for. Since we brought in Brad Stuart and Wayne Primeau its been all downhill.

      I really dont want to see Sutter do another trade ever. I’m scared of what he will do.

      Observe this Sutterian Logic exercise:

      Trader Partner: New Jersey Devils
      Whats needed: Prime Aged Offensive Players who are paid appropriately

      Most of us wish how we could get Zach Parise right? Impossible likely, but we think of it.

      Darryl would end up Trading Backlund,Brodie, Iginla, Kiprusoff, and our 1st Rounder for Kovalsuck and Brodeur.

  • icedawg_42

    I dont want to get sucked into a Dion Phaneuf debate – that trade is not the reason I think Sutter should be done…it’s just an example – a symptom of the underlying problem of how he values his “assets”

  • everton fc

    Sutter signed Stajan (w/a NMC) for $3mill/year. He’s proven “soft”. Now he sits.

    No one in the league believed he was a 1st line centre. Totally unrealistic.

    Could he be packaged with, say, a defenceman and another forward for a above average first-line centre? Or should he be put on the third line, or perhaps the second, where he belongs all along?

    Morrison’s success and Backlund positive development have made Stajan obsolete. It’s that simple. I say move him. If we lose a centre to injury, Conroy is a capable replacement.

    Also… Jokinen centred Tanguay and Iginla vs. Columbus, correct? If so, is this now working?? (I didn’t see the game, nor the lines)

  • icedawg_42

    “2. I think people who WANTED Dion moved (the majority it seemed), SHOULD stop lamenting the trade. George Johnson wrote today that Toronto won the trade hands down. For the people who wanted Dion gone… I don’t think that should be true at all, and even if it is, it’s foolhardy to dwell on that in hindsight.” – I agree with you here. And I may get lambasted for this, but I’d rather have Hagman (even without any finish (finnish?) than Phaneuf.

  • icedawg_42

    Kent – do you think the visitors being his old team slides the odds into Stajan’s favor of playing? Maybe Brent is working the angle of a combination of Stajan back off a bench-warmer, plus wanting to show up his old team to break his goal drought?

  • BobB

    @Langdon Aulder

    “Stajan – 2nd -3rd line centre with some defensive skill being used and paid as a 1st line centre.”

    I would argue that Stajan is being paid as a second line Centre… Most first line centre’s get paid more than 3.5 mil a season.

  • CitizenFlame


    I heard Howse got cut from the Canadian junior team, are there any other Flames prospects playing in this years WJC? I’m also curious if you guys are planning any coverage or articles regarding that event? Maybe prospects that the Flames should be interested in should the season tank? I’m curious about your thoughts on who the Flames should draft if they were to finish bottom 10? I know there are proponents for Landeskog (Gange) and I have seen some highlights, I like his overall game, but he’s a right winger. If we’re drafting top 5 and he is a player that will be playing on your team next year, that might not be the best fit.

  • 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.