Matt Stajan – A Closer Look




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:


GP G A P +/- SOG SH%
82 16 17 33 -11 127 12.6
76 15 40 55 -4 114 13.2
55 16 25 41 -3 99 16.2
27 3 13 16 -3 33 9.1
76 6 25 31 1 81 7.4


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:




2007/08 01:48
2008/09 02:20
2009/10 02:44
2010/11 01:03



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.



  • Vintage Flame

    Interesting article Bob and it’s funny cause they way you put in here, it’s not entirely all his fault and seemed the victim of bad placement.

    But also, let’s be honest here, it’s kind of a what came first, th chicken or the egg? Did his play drop off because he fell in the depth chart or did he fall in TOI because he stinks to all high heaven?

    I’d like to say it is a little of both, but in Stajan’s case I’m going with door #2! The guy played awful and then his season became a self-fulfilling prophecy when his confidence went in the toilet.

    Whatever, the underlying reason is, this guy should have 39 and Leeman on the back of his jersey. Just another crappy make work project for the Flames, dumped on us by the Leafs. this team doesn’t have the time or the resources to devote to Failjan, and regardless of the return, needs to find a way to unload this guy on ANYONE!

    .. But that’s just my opinion of course..

    • Robert Cleave

      He had an indifferent year, and I don’t think he played very well at all after the Staal hit. He’s not worth the money, and he’d be in the first five guys I’d run off if I was running the show.

      All that stipulated, he’s a better player than what we saw here the last 40 games, because it’s almost impossible he couldn’t be. Again, I want him on another team, but I’m mindful of all the people that thought David Moss was garbage last summer when he was clearly dealing with health issues and bad luck in 09/10. If Stajan’s still a Flame in September, I hope he’s healthy and in better shape, and then we’ll see how it all pans out. If he’s a Florida Panther, so much the better.

      • Vintage Flame

        Well he sure as hell can’t be any worse, that’s for sure. I think that’s what really gets me about Stajan. You know he has to be a better player than that. If it was just the conditioning, then I hate him even more. You don’t get paid that kind of jack to be out of shape and do jack!.

        You know when we got him, I thought he was going to be a less physical version of Owen Nolan. The kind of forward that is great on the forecheck, never give up and grind out some key points when you need them. Well we got him alright.. except it was Tim Jackman, not Stajan.

        But like you said if he’s in FLA next year, fantastic! if he is still here, I hope he gets a Brent Sutter / Jack Nicholson “Code Red”

    • Robert Cleave

      Stajan did fall of a cliff and played absolutely horrendous this season, and his contract is brutal, but they won’t trade him. As much as we all want to see him gone, unless they get an offer of SOME magnitude, they won’t trade him. I just think the Flames brass believes he can rebound and they will give him that opportunity.

      Do you wanna… do do you wanna know?

  • Robert Cleave

    If it is the case that he is not conditioned very properly, send his ass to Gary Roberts and tell him to follow that program 100%. When you look at the guys that take that program and listen to the shape they get into well maybe helping Stajan is to get him to help himself.

    Stajan was given an exteremly plush role to start, he was between Jarome and Tanguay and got some good PP time to start the season.

    He started the season off with 14 points in 18 games and then I have no idea what happened. Another 4 points in his next 9 and then he fell off a cliff, if anyone knows what happened after game 27 wanna tell us, cause 18 points in 27 games is kinda the production that I think most fans AT LEAST expected from him.

    • Robert Cleave

      His 18th game of the year was the night he got freight-trained by Staal. Like I said in the piece, maybe he was a lazy ass, and I’d co-sign on him needing to find a way to get fitter/stronger, but his play went in the ditch after that hit. Maybe that was simply a coincidence. I’m just not absolutely sure that it was.

      As an aside, Alex Tanguay looked done in Tampa. Slow, disinterested, unhappy. He openly stated that he knew he wasn’t in good enough shape, and spent last summer fixing that issue. I wonder if Matt Stajan is anywhere near that driven?

      • Vintage Flame


        That makes sense if that was the game that he railroaded, way to early in the season to remember that one play. Maybe with a good offseason and proper conditioning plan and giving him a set role, IMO, he starts centering on the third line(Backlund #1, Langkow #2) and works his way from there, maybe if Langkow doesn’t get it down he moves back up if he shows the reason why he got his grossly overinflated contract.

        As with Tanguay, I think his play was idicitive of how he was used, when a guy who is a naturally gifted offensive producer you don’t use him on 3rd and 4th lines while he watches VL, Malone, St. Louis, Stamkos and Downie get all the goals/points, it really demotivates a guy. I think you easily saw how happy he was here playing on a top line and feeding a natural goal scorere like Iggy, he likes to be that guy, its just a great bonus he’s usually really really good defensively.

        • Robert Cleave

          Nothing. That deal might not get done until just before July 1, if it gets done at all. My sense is that the GM situation needs to be settled before any player issues get resolved. I’d guess the earliest a final decision gets made on Tanguay and Glencross is after the draft.

  • As you say Bob, this is probably the floor of what we can expect from Stajan. Unfortunately, the ceiling isn’t all that high either.

    He’s poised to basically fight for ice time with Mikael Backlund next season absent injuries down the middle, which isn’t an ideal situation either way. Either you bump the kid down so you can try to garner value out of Stajan’s contract, or you pay Stajan 3M+ to play on the 4th line (further depressing his trade value).

  • icedawg_42

    Thats what you get when you greet someone coming off an airplane with 2 briefcases full of money! Thanks Darryl – mayhaps you should have watched him play a few games before giving him controlling share in your franchise. Ass.
    Stajan p!sses me off!…..thats my rant.

  • joey joe joe jr shabadoo

    I don’t think he is gonna be battling backlund because backlund should be given the number one center role to start he looked real comfortable with iggy and range and was gelling nicely to end the season. Jokinen needs to be traded he is Daryl sitters anchor and its time to cut it. I think last season is the best well ever get from him trade him when there is still value. That moves stajan to third line and langks to second with those two slottings subjecting to change based on how stajan rebounds.

  • icedawg_42

    I’m willing to bet Langkow comes back in at #1 center. I dont see any big reason to move Olli at his price so he’ll slot in at #2, which leaves Backs at #3 and Stajafail at #4 (or in the AHL please) – anyway that’s what I see happening if the roster remains what it is today.

  • Jokinen won’t be going anywhere I suspect. Langkow will be in the mix for the top center position. The only way Backlund skates with Iginla is if Sutter gives Langkow the Malholtra/Bolland/Neilsen treatment.

  • Why would we have backlind wasting away at third line role give that to neimsz or even moss, backlund has way to much talent to play third line checking minutes, imo he is our most talented center. Plus langks is better suited to play with Bourque as well they played really well and langls defensive play is much better than jokinens which should help Bourque on both ends of the ice. Jokinen is expendable and id rather we get something of value now when he has some actual value. Putting stajan on the fourth or in the ahl is just bush league if you are gonna do that to the guy just buy him out.

  • Matt Stajan sucks.

    RC, why are you using his SH% from his time in the East as if that is indicative of what his SH% would be if he had played in the West his whole career?

    He is a 13% shooter playing a scoring role on a Maple Leaf team that never made him defend, where he was allowed to ignore the other 100 feet of the ice. His numbers, like Whites, and even JBlows, are juiced because they come from the weaker conference.

    What I noticed was that in his time in the West, his shots have gone down. Hard to maintain SH% if you can’t get open for shots anymore.

    My math has him averaging 1.1 shots per game as a Flame, compared to the 1.6 as a Leaf. That means the cat is losing 41 shots a year over 82 games. It’s going to be hard for him, I think, to maintain his career average scoring numbers going forward. Because he sucks.

    Honestly, it isn’t the scoring numbers that should be a concern. He isn’t a scorer. We should be concerned with the fact they, the Flames, gave a hefty contract to a guy who doesn’t do anything else when he isn’t scoring. He doesn’t influence play in the neutral or defensive zones at all.

    • There’s no convincing proof that moving conferences alters SH%. Shot rates, however, might respond, particularly when the player is moved down the rotation like Stajan was.

      But I mostly agree with you otherwise. If Stajan isn’t scoring 50+ point for you, he’s probably pretty uesless.

  • Michael

    Maybe the biggest legacy from the Sutter era is the number of high priced players that are under contract that are generally considered ‘soft’ or lack ‘consistency’, lack ‘compete’ or don’t come from a winning tradition.

    You can throw Stajan in with Jay Bou, Kotalik, Hagman, Jokinen, Bourque etc. If Jokinen used his size, he might well be a #1 center, Bourque can dominate games one night and be invisible the next, Jay Bo is a $4 million guy making $6.7,
    Stajan, Hagman and Kotalik utter failures.
    Glencross was worth his contract, but drove the coaches crazy with his compete and consistency.

    You really think a ‘Sutter’ would select players with the opposite traits…

  • joey joe joe jr shabadoo

    the Stajan situation is a sticky one to be sure.

    the Flames seem to have a glut of 2nd-3rd line centers. It would seem that Langkow-Jokinen-Backlund should be our top 3.

    That said I believe the Flames will be forced to give Stajan another shot at solidifying his spot on this team. Trading Stajan is basically a pipe dream, he and his cap-hit are basically salary cap poision. Any return the Flames would get would have to be just as poor in terms of contract value/on ice production. take a look at the worst contract on each of the other NHL teams and there you go.

    as an example:
    Matt Stajan for Mike Commodore or,
    Matt Stajan for Ales Kotalik……..oh, wait….

    the other option would be to dump Stajan on Florida, but regardless of what the return is we would likely have to sweeten the pot by throwing in a 2nd round draft pick which sounds awefully familiar for this organization.

    The best case senario is Stajan trains like an animal, and is able to come close to an actual NHLer next year. Here’s hoping Matt powers up over the off season and is a little luckier with the injuries.