Reasonable Expectations: Matt Stajan

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?

Season       Corsi %              PDO          
OZS%
2010-11 52.7% 99.6 34.0%
2011-12 50.1% 100.4 31.0%
2012-13 48.1% 101.7 27.2%
2013-14 47.5% 96.8 24.9%

 

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.

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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.

2014-15 EXPECTATIONS

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.

  • The Last Big Bear

    Expectations for Matt Stajan are fairly simple.

    He will continue to be a solid professional, an example to the younger players, someone who, through his work and his steadfast nature through an exceptionally trying personal tragedy last season, will continue do so in 2014-15 (and beyond!).

    I see him posting 30+ points and continued respect from his teammates and fans.

  • The Last Big Bear

    Stajan has plenty of gas left in the tank.

    I think a full season of a Stajan-Jones pairing could see nice rebound production numbers from both of them, with maybe 40 goals and 40 assists between the two of them.

    Before people get too uppity, that would be an increase of 8 points over their pace from last year (Stajan was on pace for 18 goals and 25 assists, and Jones on pace for 15 goals and 14 assists). And I don’t think either of them played at an unsustainably high pace last season (the opposite, if anything, for Jones).

    That is IF they can both stay healthy. Which is big if for guys past 30 who have already had some significant injuries.

  • ChinookArchYYC

    I can definitely see Stajan having a key role for the next two seasons as the team transitions its younger centre’s (including Backs and Monahan) to more prominent roles. As Kent mentions, he will be a gatekeeper, as well as a mentor who can handle some of the tougher assignments, or at least not get demolished while doing it.

    After those two years, I see him being pushed to the periphery or being moved along, as his importance will be diminished, as may his game (though I can see him being one of those decent players well into his late 30s; he doesn’t rely on explosiveness or speed). Because of this, I would have loved for him to sign a two-year contract instead of the four he got, but maybe he’s not untradeable in 2016 when he’s 33 and this team is looking to hopefully seriously contend.

    Until then, good character vets like Stajan will be extremely useful.

  • piscera.infada

    I was thinking it would be Monahan with the most O starts, then number 4 whoever it is, then Backs with the most D starts followed by Stajan. I could also see Stajan and Backs out on the defensive zones starts at key moments although not as line.

    In two years it is highly likely he will be replaced by one of the younger centers in the organization.

  • PrairieStew

    Intrigued by the possibility of Jones and Raymond playing with Stajan. One heavy guy and one speedy guy with Matt could be a nice veteran force for good. Burying them with a view to helping to give higher ground to Monahan and Backlund is probably the best strategy.

  • Parallex

    Reasonable Expectations: Eat hard minutes effectively, send another “thank you” card to his agent for somehow getting that deal he got last year, practice playing on his off-wing (because “C” and “LW” are about to get awfully crowded).

    • I think Matt Stajan is going to be a useful player for the Flames in terms of acting like a gatekeeper for the kids.

      Want to move up the roster? First you’ll have to be able to effectively play with Matt Stajan. And/or you’ll have to be able to outplay Matt Stajan. He’s a useful touchstone the organization can use to judge the hopefuls as they try to poke their head above the crowd. He’s good enough that you know he’s not dragging anyone down. He’s not so good that a youngster can ride his coattails to unearned success.

      • PrairieStew

        That’s astute Kent.

        Hopefully there comes a point in the not too distant future that several young guys have passed through that gate. With Granlund, Knight,Arnold and Bennett as centres ( and maybe Jankowski) at what point do you sacrifice the experience and leadership of Stajan and move him for assets? When one of those guys can beat him ? 2 ?

          • PrairieStew

            I am thinking that the ceiling for Knight, Arnold and Reinhart ( if he plays at C) is 4th line – so until both Granlund and Bennett are better options – Matty is a Flame. That is unless you want Granlund to learn on the job and tank a bit this year.

      • piscera.infada

        My thoughts exactly. I also wouldn’t mind if he had a nice sit-down with Baertschi about expectations and how to handle the “tough times” with the coaching staff, management, and the fans.

        Moreover, it’s nice to see him get some added stability for his family after that year they had, geez.