Photo Credit: Kirby Lee / USA Today Sports

FlamesNation Player Evaluation: Matt Stajan

Matt Stajan may be the most perplexing player on the Calgary Flames roster.

The only remaining piece in the organization from the horrible Dion Phaneuf trade to Toronto, Stajan was originally brought over to be a top six piece but never really found a foothold. Amidst a bunch of stops and starts playing with more skilled players, Stajan quietly became a really solid 200-foot player and a really useful fixture in the Flames’ bottom six.

Playing almost exclusively with the team’s lesser lights, he had a quietly solid 2016-17 season.

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2016-17 season summary

Stajan played all but one game for the Flames in the regular season, staying healthy all year and giving the team a good amount of stability on their bottom six. He was quietly consistent, good for about a point every four games, and he rarely saw his line get lit up. Granted, his line only played about 10 or 12 minutes per game, but it’s still a decent result.

Here’s a quick glance (via Corsica.hockey) at how his season went, possession-wise:

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When the team struggled, Stajan’s line wasn’t great. When the team got their act together, he spent time with his head above water. When you consider that Stajan’s line started about as often in the defensive zone as the 3M line did, a Corsi percentage just below 50% is pretty amazing.

Most common teammates

Stajan played with a weird mixture of players this past season:

  1. Lance Bouma & Micheal Ferland
  2. Bouma & Alex Chiasson
  3. Kris Versteeg & Troy Brouwer
  4. Bouma & Garnet Hathaway
  5. Sam Bennett & Chiasson

He was almost exclusively the fourth line center, except for a brief bump up in the rotation when Bennett was demoted to the fourth line. Despite a ton of defensive zone starts and playing with the team’s lesser lights, his WOWY results indicate that he did a pretty good job holding things together. Via Corsica.hockey:

Aside from Bouma basically falling apart away from Stajan, his results are almost remarkable in how unremarkable they are. Throw a player with Stajan and bury them in the defensive zone, and they’ll have numbers that aren’t wildly different than they had in other circumstances. Heck, Stajan dragging Bouma and Deryk Engelland up with him is pretty impressive given their individual results otherwise.

Aside from these guys at even strength, Stajan played on the second penalty killing unit with Bouma. They played a ton, but they gave up the most Corsi Against Per 60 of any penalty killing unit. In other words: they ate up time on the PK, but they also gave up the most shot attempts (and thus gave the other team the most opportunities to score). Granted, much of that may be Bouma’s influence, but it’s not a great result.

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What’s next?

Stajan has a season left on his current contract, which expires following the 2017-18 campaign. He carries a $3.125 million cap hit, which is a lot for a fourth line center but arguably isn’t horrendous for a good center.

He’ll be exposed in the expansion draft. If the Golden Knights are seeking leadership and the choice is taking on Troy Brouwer’s deal for three more seasons or taking on Stajan for one season, Stajan could be headed to the desert.

That’d be a bit of a shame, if you ask me, because it might be tough to find a fourth line center in their system (or via free agency) that can be as useful in rough deployments as Stajan has been.

#1 – Brian Elliott #5 – Mark Giordano
#6 – Dennis Wideman #7 – T.J. Brodie
#10 – Kris Versteeg #11 – Mikael Backlund
#13 – Johnny Gaudreau #17 – Lance Bouma

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  • Stu Cazz

    …”that can be useful in rough deployments as Stajan”….Mr. Pike…please elaborate? As a fan I see a nice guy….loved by his teammates….functionally I see >$3M 4th line centre who no longer has NHL speed, cannot win face-offs and has low point production. Flames need to move on….either deploy him as an assistant coach in his final season or buy-out.

    • OKG

      Functionally I see a 3rd line center, former 55 point scorer, who has NHL speed, is strong at zone entries, won half the faceoffs he took, and can play top 9 LW when needed making top 9 money, but happens to play a technically fourth line role while being a strong penalty killer (unfortunately paired with Lance Bouma).

      Seriously, a buyout? You gotta be kidding me. He has positive value.

  • Newbietwo

    Stajan needs to go.. Burke gave him a crazy extended contract and it’s time he goes.. if we can’t trade some of these players I hope management grows some balls and show us fans they mean business buying sending these guys down or buying them out or trading them eating salary