Photo Credit: Candice Ward-USA TODAY Sports

FlamesNation player evaluation: Matt Stajan

Matt Stajan played out the final year of his contract in 2017-18, potentially spelling the end of his nine-year stint with the Calgary Flames. While he ably filled the role of fourth line center – with a fairly hefty cap hit given that role – his bigger impact on the club was arguably felt as the team’s heart and soul.

2017-18 season summary

This past season was Stajan’s 15th in the NHL and he turned 34 years old in December. Considering his age and where he is in his career trajectory, Stajan ended up having a pretty solid season.

Stajan played almost exclusively on the fourth line. He played primarily with Curtis Lazar and Troy Brouwer. The trio played most of their shifts against the other team’s lesser lights and started primarily in the defensive zone. Stajan ended up playing almost entirely at center, as Lazar never seemed to warm to the position and ended up playing on the wing all season.

Statistically, Stajan was just fine: a completely acceptable fourth line pivot. One of his four goals was important: he scored the game-winner on March 9 in a 2-1 win over Ottawa.

Games played Goals Assists Points TOI/GP 5v5 CF% 5v5 CF% rel OZS% PDO
68 4 8 12 10:56 52.24% -1.43% 39.83% 1.016

Stajan’s Corsi Rel percentage was better than the likes of Kris Versteeg, Troy Brouwer, Curtis Lazar, Mark Jankowski and Micheal Ferland, and was slightly lower than Sam Bennett’s. In terms of the bottom six mix, Stajan was arguably one of their better options in the role. He didn’t play a ton at five-on-five, but he factored in a lot on the penalty kill – though as the season wore on he ceded some of his time in the PK rotation to the duo of Jankowski and Garnet Hathaway, who had better underlyings on the PK than Stajan and Brouwer and had the benefit of not being in their 30s.

Stajan was a healthy scratch 10 times in the first three months of the season, then seemed to find a rhythm and consistently played every game until he hit the 1,000 games played milestone. At that point, he was scratched – often in favour of Nick Shore, his heir apparent in the prestigious 4C position.

However, a case can be made that Stajan’s biggest contributions were off the ice, where he was the team’s elder statesman among forwards (when Jaromir Jagr wasn’t on the team) and a valued mentor for the team’s younger players. Was fourth line competence and off-ice mentorship worth $3.125 million in cap space? Probably not.

Compared to last season

By a lot of measures, Stajan had one of his strongest seasons in years in 2017-18. He had his best possession season (in terms of Corsi percentage) since 2010-11. His relative numbers were his best since 2014-15. If you look at his underlying rates – his shot rates for and against per 60 minutes – he had his best offensive season in since 2010-11 and one of his better defensive seasons as a Flame.

In terms of counting stats, Stajan only had 12 points – his lowest offensive output in his NHL career. For a team that lacked offense from lines that didn’t have Johnny Gaudreau on them, it was endemic of the challenges everybody had to generate scoring. (But in his defense, he was dragging around Lazar and Brouwer for 68 games.)

What about next season?

Stajan will be 35 in December. The Flames acquired Shore at the trade deadline and he was pretty effective in a limited sample size at the end of the season. Given that the Flames have no other right-shot centers – particularly given Lazar’s inability to play the position – Shore’s a shoo-in for the fourth line spot that Stajan occupied, and will be a much more cost effective fit in the role.

That said, Stajan has expressed a desire to be back with the club and could be effective in a secondary role – as a 13th or 14th forward that plays 25-30 games. But he’d need to take a big pay cut for that to happen. Considering the Flames’ lack of center depth on the farm, it’s not out of the realm of possibility.

#5 – Mark Giordano #7 – TJ Brodie
#8 – Chris Stewart #10 – Kris Versteeg
#11 – Mikael Backlund #13 – Johnny Gaudreau
#15 – Tanner Glass


  • Flaming Glory

    Amazing guy who does need to retire. I love him as a human being but that’s a pass on him being on the roster. Congrats on the season. You deserve it.

    • Fat Tony

      Agreed.. Great guy and even better team mate but his playing days have come to an end. If he is to return to the Flames I hope it’s in a player development role

  • Hockeyfan

    what can be said about a oh so sweet nice man who basically contributed to nothing in his tenure as a Flame. but wait, being a sugarplum of a guy with nary a clue what it takes to win outta be good for a 3 year extension by this mngt.

    • Bean-counting cowboy

      You don’t play 9 years in a row in the same organization by contributing “nothing”. Stajan took a lot of heat from the media here because he never lived up to the #1 center billing from the Phaneuf trade… except it wasn’t his fault – it was Daryl’s.

      Stajan responded with nothing but grace and class, every time! He played on plenty of 4th lines by plenty of coaches with plenty of crappy linemates without once complaining to the media. He embraced a shut-down, reduced role and modeled how a TEAM-mate should behave to a bunch of young up and comers.

      He was at times over paid for his contributions. Much of that was not his fault and you could look to the trade previously mentioned or coach usage. Brent Sutter was determined not to play him once he was out from under the ruling thumb of Darryl who initially made that trade.

      I agree that it’s time to hang them up and that full value was not received in the trade or in subsequent contract signings, but you can’t put all that on the player for reasons previously mentioned. Just say “thanks for your service” and “all the best” soldier.

    • buts

      Your not a hockey fan. Why not change your name to Debbie Downer, because to have nothing positive to say in any of your comments. Better yet, would be you go to oilers nation or even better just disappear.

  • snotss

    yes a great guy and all but really its time to bring some young talent in to see what they can do…good luck in the future stajan i could see a move to the front office but not a roster spot

  • freethe flames

    Great man ; yup. Even had some moments last year where he looked okay especially when playing with the kids but if BT can’t find an upgrade over him then next will be very long.

  • Stu Gotz

    Thanks Stajan. Time to move on. Make sure Brian Burke is on your X-mas card mailing list. He put about $10M in your pocket that any other player of your skill set would not have earned…..

  • Glensfunnyface

    Outside Brouwer, Stajans contract was the worst on the team. Not his fault, but he certainly did nothing to earn it. He is a nice guy, great ambassador, and from all appearances a fantastic teammate, but I hope he never suits up in a Flames Jersey again because the game has passed him bye…like 4 years ago. Enjoy retirement Matty and hopefully you can stay out of jail because you robbed millions $$$ from the Flames owners. P.S….BTF 2.0 is a closet Oilers tsn and he sucks.

  • IUsedToHaveAName

    I’m fine with him as a 13th or 14th forward near league minimum with maybe some bonuses on his contract for one year just to make sure that Shore is going to pan out. After that, I’d love to see him in a front office position with the Flames or maybe the Flames Foundation.

  • buts

    Again the LVGK showed the hockey world what good coaching can do. I crapped on Engelland last year then I see him play solid, smart pinch’s, physical. It has to be coaching because this team of castoffs has a very good chance to win the cup and to see Engelland pinch and keep the puck in the offensive zone with 3 minutes left. No staying back protecting the lead…..crap I wish we had Gallant. Then I watch team Canada struggle again with the best player in the world and it’s coached by Bill Peters our next coach….ouch. WTF …Latvia had Hartley behind the bench. Tre has a very important summer ahead. But BP as your pick…..I don’t know.

      • FL?MES

        And your comment was a bad comment. Give the guy a chance. If it works out, great. If not, BT can work next to you on the assembly line.

        The fact is that none of us know what the future will bring. I admit that I laughed after the expansion draft. Vegas is laughing at us all now.

        At the end of the day you might be right or you might be wrong. Who cares…

    • Off the wall

      You might be right there Buts.
      Coaching is enigmatic to begin with. How many great coaches didn’t make it to the East/ West finals?

      I must assert that I’ve been amazed and even speechless (very rare for me) at times with the resilience of the Knights.

      Gallant has that team oiled like a machine. On second thought, let me retract that. I shouldn’t have mentioned anything about Oil. Yikes!

      He has the Knights playing like medieval warriors. No quit, no intimidation. No fear.

      Makes me jealous and all the other envious adjectives that go along with it.

      BP definitely has a big task ahead of him. His success or failure at the IIHF for Canada shouldn’t cloud our judgement of him. He does after all have Oilers on it. ( spits)

  • Off the wall

    We mustn’t tell the Great WW that his favourite 3rd line Centre (Loui) Backlund had a goal and 3 assists against the Swiss in a 5-3 win.
    Also, Backlund is the first player from the Flames to be voted player of the game at the IIHF tournament.