2014-15 By The Numbers: #18 Matt Stajan

Matt Stajan may be the most underrated player on the Calgary Flames.

The team’s most veteran center, Stajan emerged as a bottom-six staple last season as well as a very effective penalty kill specialist. He was used as a shut-down pivot in the post-season – to great success against Vancouver and varying success against Anaheim, when his wingers seemed to get banged up and become less effective as a result.

After several seasons of fans and analysts alike maligning his old contract, Stajan’s found a niche as a leader in the room and a a very useful player for the team’s third and fourth lines.

Stajan played approximately 600 minutes at even-strength, and played 100+ minutes alongside 10 different skaters.

Player Together Apart Diff.
Bollig 47.2% 35.4% +11.8%
Brodie 41.8% 46.0% -4.2%
Engelland 36.4% 41.6% -5.2%
Bouma 42.9% 41.3% +1.6%
Russell 44.6% 42.8% +1.8%
Wideman 44.7% 42.6% +2.1%
Diaz 49.2% 45.6% +3.6%
Giordano 48.9% 48.2% +0.7%
Jones 43.5% 44.0% -0.5%
Byron 46.7% 46.6% -0.1%

Overall, Stajan’s got a bit of variation: Bollig really benefits from his presence, Wideman and Diaz do well, Brodie and Engelland struggle, and everyone else is in the mushy middle.

A good deal of Stajan’s underlyings – and the impacts he has on his teammates – has to do with his deployments by Bob Hartley.

forwards

You have a center, a veteran, who can win draws reliably. And a team full of super-young centers. So you put Stajan on the fourth line and give him a lot of defensive starts, because he’ll win most of ’em (he won just over half of his draws) and then you can give your young guys a bit of wiggle room.

Deryk Engelland? He needs a lot of O-zone starts. Brodie? He can handle either, and I’d suspect that much of his Stajan drag-down possession-wise is a product of Stajan’s line-mates. And on the other end, isn’t it shocking that Brandon Bollig does a heck of a lot better when on the ice with the team’s most reliable center than with anybody else?

Matt Stajan is 31 years old. He’s seemingly found a niche in Calgary; he’s the guy you put into the zone-entry deep end with your team’s worst players to win draws, move the puck up the ice (somewhat) and hopefully eat up some time off the clock. And he can also be thrown in with your better players and be used to shut down the other team’s better players (when paired with some decent two-way wingers like David Jones, Lance Bouma or Micheal Ferland).

I was tempted to end this with a bit of a joke about the Dion Phaneuf trade and Calgary winning it. And I think that’d be kind-of missing the point. Stajan’s proven to be a useful piece of the puzzle in Calgary, as it seems both he and the organization have figured out a way to get past the baggage of that Phaneuf trade and focus on the games. The Flames probably won more games than they lost this season directly because of Stajan. And if you factor in the innumerable ways he influences the team’s young centers and hopefully helps them improve their games, his impact becomes even more impressive.

2014-15 BY THE NUMBERS

  • everton fc

    Yo Matty Franchise, I’m really happy for you, Imma let you finish but Bill Arnold is still taking your spot eventually.

    ….seriously though, Matt on the fourth line was the best thing to ever happen to the Flames. Our biggest weakness most of the season was third line center. Not to take away from Jooris or Granlund, but both those players are better suited to the wing as “emergency centers”.

    I can’t wait til Bennett and Jankowski are in the mix, as they’re more natural centers. I really like Stajan FWIW, and he should stick around for another year at the very least and maybe two. Guys like Shore, Bollig, Ferland, Jones, and Colborne were all fine fits on his line and he’s an awesome veteran that’s helped Backlund and Monahan develop their game and hopefully does the same for Bennett.

  • The Last Big Bear

    Matt Stajan is a glue player.

    I’d like to see him play a similar role for the Flames that Stoll played in LA.

    A bit overpaid to be a 4th line center, but on the flip side he exponentially increases the utility of that line from a liability to an asset.

    I don’t know about his shelf-life though. Especially with his concussion history. He’ll likely last out his current contract, but I wouldn’t make any bets past that.

  • Burnward

    The thing I really came to appreciate during the playoffs was how he came across in the post game interviews.

    He’s like a coach on the ice for the kids with the way he thinks the game and has to make life infinitely easier for the coaching staff.

    Hearing him discuss how to execute a game plan against the Sedin’s was like a talking text book.

    Much respect for this man.

  • Greg

    I’ve liked him a lot the past couple years and I think he’ll be great to have on the team next year too. But I kinda hope he becomes expendable by the deadline due to progression of some kids, and somehow racks up a lot of points to make him enticing on the trade block, because that cap space for a bottom 6 guy, even if he can play top 6 when needed, is not going to be a luxury we can really afford going forward.