It’s probably fair to say that last year is one that Matt Stajan probably won’t want to relive for all the tea in China. In addition to some awful off-ice issues that he and his family had to deal with, Stajan’s Calgary Flames club finished fourth-last in the NHL and the veteran missed 19 games between injuries and the other factors.
On the other hand, Stajan had his best offensive season since coming to Calgary. Before you get too excited, it was 33 points, good for sixth on the team. So how good is Matt Stajan at this juncture?
Between Brent Sutter and Bob Hartley, oddly enough Matt Stajan has been used fairly consistently, which is to say he’s been buried. Suited with a reputation for good two-way play, and occasionally wearing an A on his chest when a regular captain is injured, Stajan’s possession numbers have crept gradually down as he’s spent more and more of his time in the defensive zone. But considering he was able to turn spending three-quarters of his even-strength starts in the D-zone and still had 33 points, that’s not bad.
STAJAN’S 2013-14 NUMBERS
Matt Stajan bounced around the line-up a bit this past season, in part due to his early-season injury, several injuries to key Flames and Bob Hartley gradually utilizing Mikael Backlund more and more as an offensive catalyst. Despite all the missed time and the Bingo tumbler of line-mates he had – he played 100+ even-strength minutes with seven different forwards – he was third on the team in even-strength scoring. 29 of his 33 points were scored at even-strength, which is pretty damn good for somebody who started as often in the D-zone as he did.
Even with being buried alive and facing tough competition most nights, Stajan was also Calgary’s most reliable regular face-off man, winning 48.1%. Now, that’s not great and Calgary was dreadful in general for face-offs, but he’s still Calgary’s best here.
We may have gotten a glimpse of Stajan’s future mid-way through the season, as he was placed on a really effective third line with David Jones and Lance Bouma for awhile. The trio often started games and attempted to set the tone with hitting and a relentless forecheck. If Calgary has some offensive options that are clicking, as happened at times last year, Stajan probably should (and has) slid into a complementary/depth role.
He was fifth among forwards in average ice-time, but was crucially important for special teams, as he was tied with Bouma for average PK time by a forward. He barely got any regular power-play time, though.
Calgary’s got three established centers right now: Stajan, Mikael Backlund and Sean Monahan. Backlund probably gets the most O-zone starts, Stajan the least. In terms of hard minutes? Monahan probably gets the easiest, Stajan the hardest. Whoever the fourth center is probably doesn’t impact this ordering much.
And for Stajan, it probably doesn’t change his deployments all that much from last season. He’ll be thrown to the wolves and given the tough minutes in bad situations. He’s a veteran. He can handle it. And he’ll probably still provide some offense here and there.
Moreover, with Lee Stempniak and Mike Cammalleri gone, Stajan is (along with Mark Giordano and Curtis Glencross) the last of the team’s older established leadership group. He’ll be counted on to take a leadership role on and off the ice and, if the last few years are any indication, he’ll take his assignments like a pro. Stajan hates losing, possibly more than anybody on the team, and he seems to recognize his role on the club.
Will he stay healthy? Stajan seems to miss a chunk of games every season. I would guess 30 points is probably a good expectation for him, perhaps a bit more if he can play a full season.