Matt Stajan is the poster boy for due diligence. Not because he was an excellent reward for it, but because he’s an excellent example of not doing due diligence.
In the years since the now infamous Dion Phanuef trade, it’s become widely reported that Darryl Sutter did not shop Phaneuf. He made two or three offers around the league, found a deal that was "good enough", and made it. He limited his options and and took whatever he could get. That, ladies and gentlemen, is not due diligence.
The Surface and Underlying Numbers
But would doing the research and putting time have prevented the unfortunate situation the Flames find themselves in with Matty Franchise today? Should the Flames have expected Stajan to utterly burn out? Or is there some mystery cause behind one of the worst contracts on the Calgary Flames? First, let’s start with Stajan’s boxcars.
As you can see, Stajan was hardly a career 50+ point player. At the time of the extension he was nearing his second fifty point season, but two in a row isn’t much of a trend. Prior to that Stajan had two seasons over 30 points and two under. Hoping for a repeat of 50+ points wasn’t ludicrous, but it also wasn’t a sure thing. Expecting between 30 and 45 points would be entirely more reasonable.
His point-per-game average in the current and two seasons prior to the extension was 0.61, which plays out to 50 points over an 82 game season. Not a superstar, but a quality player. After the contract extension? His play fell to a ghastly 0.39 points-per-game, which pro-rates to 32 points in an 82 game season. (As a note, I’m using the extension as the splitting point because his contract is the issue, but the reality is his play didn’t fall off until after the 2009-10 season. His play with the Flames after the extension but before the off-season was exactly on par with the previous two seasons and change: 0.6 PPG).
So what changed? Why did his points-per-game fall by a third? First, let’s check the fancy stats.
|Season||Off Zone Start %||Corsi Rel||On-Ice Sh%||PDO||QualComp Rank||P/60||TOI/60|
A couple notes: I filtered players by limiting it to forwards with more than 30 GP.
On the QualComp Rank column: instead of listing QualComp, I list the rank as it is relative to his teammates in a given season. 0.1 in one season might be great and 0.1 in another season might be mediocre. Furthermore, 2009-10 isn’t really available since he was traded and his numbers would be across two teams. In short, not a number I feel comfortable with.
So what do we learn from the above table? Not much- he’s always been a throughly mediocre possession player- on the plus side, but not by much. On-ice shooting percentage tells us very little as well. His BTN-era career average is 8.446, meaning his only significant outlier season, 2008-09, was off by only 1.874.
His zone starts tell a little bit of the story- his best two years were the two he had his highest zone starts, but there was minimal fall off in 2010-11 when his scoring fell off. Similarly, QualComp offers little help: he played the easiest competition in his worst years relative to his teammates. In some of his best years he played middling or difficult comp.
Finally, his rates per 60 minutes tell us little. The Points/60 column ranges from 1.23 to 2.42 and the Time on Ice/60 ranges from 11.36 to 14.44. Both of these would offer answers if Stajan’s fall-off was minimal, but it’s not.
The fancy stats show there was a bubble that was going to burst: his ice-time has lessened, zone starts slightly worsened, his on-ice and personal SH% both fell from his career years; but nothing really explains here the drop to his current level. The time is identifiable as the off-season between 2009-10 and 2010-11, but what actually happened to cause it at that time is completely ineffable with the information available.
Next I’ll look at the chance for redemption and what it would take for Matt Stajan to play at an "acceptable" level.