Once upon a time, Matt Stajan was an 18-year-old rookie jumping into the deep end of the National Hockey League. Now he’s approaching his 33rd birthday and has played nearly 900 games. When he came to Calgary, the thought was that he’d be a big offensive contributor.
Instead, he’s become a mentor for the club’s revolving door of young forwards and in the grand scheme of things, that could be his biggest impact long-term for the club. Stajan’s 2015-16 season went very similarly to how the entire team’s went.
Stajan spent his season as a complementary player, playing almost exclusively on the Flames’ bottom six and on the penalty kill. On the whole, he had 17 points over 80 games – granted, he’s not paid to score points.
That said, he had his fewest goals, assists and points per 60 minutes in years, and his lowest Corsi For and personal shooting percentages in a while as well. When you dig into his underlying numbers, though, other than a slight dip in his Corsi For per 60 minutes Stajan’s numbers are really similar to last season’s.
The big differences are linemates and shooting percentages. Two of Stajan’s most frequent linemates last season were Paul Byron, who went to Montreal on waivers, and Lance Bouma, who was injured for most of the season. No Byron may be enough to crater his underlyings on its own.
IMPACT ON TEAM
Stajan was primarily used as a bottom six player. He received tons of defensive zone starts – nobody on the team more frequently started in the defensive zone – and third and fourth line opposition. His underlyings weren’t great compared to much of the rest of the team.
Stajan most frequently played on the third and fourth lines with Colborne & Jones, Bollig & Jooris, and Colborne & Ferland. Here’s a glance of his impact on his most frequent teammates.
Stajan and Jooris made each other better. When he played with Bollig, Jones, Wideman, Engelland or Russell, they made each other worse. But Stajan also got better at the expense of Hamilton, Giordano and Brodie.
Generally? Stajan wasn’t a possession anchor the way others on the Flames were (so he’s carryable), but he didn’t play frequently enough with guys that could drag him up as he did last year. (In other words: he missed Byron badly.)
Another area where he was challenged last season was face-offs: he won 47.3% of his draws, second on the team but way below Sean Monahan’s team-leading 51% (and a big drop from last season’s 50.3%). Considering that he was playing primarily against lower-tier opposition, it’s a disappointing dip.
WHAT COMES NEXT?
Stajan has two seasons left on his current contract. He’s quietly approaching 1,000 games played in the NHL, and depending on his health and performance he has a decent shot at hitting that mark before his contract is done. (He’d need to play 146 of the 164 games left on his contract.)
That said, Stajan will likely continue to transition towards a more complementary, strategic role, and he’ll really need to see his face-off numbers bounce back if he’s going to get significant ice time (and avoid the press box) over the next two seasons.
Given how important Stajan’s been to the progression of the team’s young guns over the last few seasons, it would be pretty cool to see him get to 1,000 games.