I’m not sure there was a Flames’ player whose efforts attracted more negative attention in relative terms this past season than Matt Stajan. The ex-Leaf signed a 4 year, $14M extension shortly after he arrived via the Phaneuf trade, much to virtually everyone’s chagrin, and followed that up with the worst season of his career by far. His 10/11 concluded with him pulling 4th line duty after Daymond Langkow returned, so all in all, it was an utter bust of a year. Brent Sutter’s post-season comments suggested the club was unhappy with his fitness, with the clear implication that Stajan played soft due to his poor conditioning.
That assessment from the coaching staff wasn’t exactly a ringing endorsement of a player that had just pocketed $4.5M in actual wages, and I don’t doubt that most fans would be happy to see the back of Matt Stajan this off-season. His contract might prevent any easy move, of course, so with that in mind, I wanted to have a look at his year by the numbers to see if there were underlying factors behind his drop-off, and if there’s any hope for a bounce back.
It’s fairly well established that there’s much to examine beyond goals/assists/points/+/- when assessing a player’s quality of work, since any number of things can affect a player’s boxcar numbers, and those factors aren’t always a true indication of repeatable talent. A large fluctuation in a player’s shooting percentage is often at the root of differences in scoring, and the next most prevalent factor in my opinion is a change in the amount of special teams ice time a player receives. Before I dig into Stajan’s possession and scoring chance numbers, it seemed reasonable to check his rates and percentages from 07/08 onward:
The item that stands out is Stajan’s shooting percentage. He’s a career 13% shooter, and his last three years in Toronto fit that profile. The last year and a half in Calgary, not so much. Over time, I’d bet that number evens out, so there might be a small sliver of light in terms of potential scoring output. The more worrying number, at least for me, is that his shot attempts have fallen off. He was averaging about 1.5 SOG in Toronto. That rate didn’t carry over after the trade. Some of that might be better competition out West, or a desire to defer to Iginla when they were linemates.
Of course, one section of the game that almost always helps goose a good player’s shot totals is time on the PP. Stajan’s icetime since 07/08:
Hmm. The addition of Tanguay, Morrison and Jokinen to the squad last summer pushed Stajan off the PP by and large. Of course, it wasn’t like he burned it up on the PP when he did play. His PTS/60 during 5 on 4 play this past season was .75. That’s not a typo. I suspect a dead body parked in front of the net could equal that output, in fact. As a comparison, the worst regular Flame forward at 5v5, Tom Kostopoulos, averaged 1.10 PTS/60. Stajan was never any great shakes as a PP guy in terms of rates even with more icetime, since he averaged around 3 PTS/60 in previous years, but this past season was a complete aberration.
The above suggests that his boxcar numbers mostly were affected by factors beyond what we’d normally consider repeatable. Shooting a poor percentage on a personal level and having a 5v4 scoring rate down around what you’d expect from a goon or a non-scoring defenceman will kill your numbers pretty much without fail, and even if you think Matt Stajan is a bad player, he isn’t Raitis Ivanans.
As mentioned at the start, the underlying numbers at EV are always an area of scrutiny around these parts. Here are Stajan’s possession numbers at EV when the game was tied, so that score effects are eliminated:
|Shots %||F’wick %||Corsi %||On ice SV%||On ice SH %||Qcomp||Ozone FO %|
|0.534||0.532||0.530||0.882||6.3%||9 of 12||53.0|
The outshooting numbers are pretty decent. If you get 53% of the EV-tied attempts, you should be on the good side of things as a rule, although as with so many Flames, his goalie didn’t exactly do him any favours. The Flames as a team were around .520 in terms of shots %, and from my look at things in this piece, that was a number that compared favourably to the middle of the Western Conference playoff pack.
Stajan’s OZone faceoffs were 5th easiest of the 12 regular forwards on the team, but Calgary’s numbers only ranged from Jackman’s 57.7 to Morrison’s 50.7, so there wasn’t any of this Sedin nonsense where a player or two gets OZone starts in the 70+ % range. Stajan wasn’t any sort of outlier, in other words.
As with Stajan’s personal SH%, his on-ice numbers were lagging a bit by that indicator. The Flames as a team shot 7.1% in that game state. The early part of the season was especially hard on Stajan by this metric. Through the NYR game in late November, a time where he was centering Iginla and Tanguay more often than not, his on-ice SH% was 2.3. Iginla and Tanguay were at 1.6% and 1.9% respectively, and as tempting as it is to blame Stajan for that that performance, a series of percentages that low is just a run of bad luck, period.
Scoring chances for/against seem a better measure of play, and the trio was running at about 58% to the good through that game. I’ve used that game as a marker since it was also the occasion where Marc Staal almost knocked Stajan into another eon with a bodycheck. Stajan’s brief absence after that hit appears to mark the practical end of his time as the top line center, since the majority of his SC events with Iginla and Tanguay took place through that evening. He slowly dropped down the order from that evening onwards, and as much as one might like to think he was just a lazy ass, there’s every chance that hit might have done more damage than we might have originally thought.
Stajan’s overall scoring chance numbers were still pretty decent, really. He ended up with a scoring chance tally of 273/244 at EV overall, for a % of 52.8, right in line with his out-shooting numbers. That noted, a player at his wage that spent the last 3/4 of the year playing third liners or worse should have been able to do at least that much or more, so his performance by the scoring chance metric was a lot less impressive than what we saw from someone like Jokinen or Glencross.
Overall, I suspect Matt Stajan considers this year a bust as well. He was never a great player in Toronto, but this season’s performance, at least in terms of offensive output, was very poor by any standard. That said, percentages and a drop in PP time did him no favours, and I’d guess that he won’t be this bad next year. That doesn’t mean he should be a top-sixer on a good team, but with decent linemates and regular PP duty I’d be unsurprised if he was back to being a middling player scoring around 50 points in 11/12. Whether he would or should get that chance in Calgary is another matter altogether, and his ongoing presence on the squad will be a regular topic of conversation over this off-season.