Matt Stajan: Whatever Happened? (Part 1 of 2)

Arik
May 23 2012 06:53AM


Matt Stajan is the poster boy for due diligence. Not because he was an excellent reward for it, but because he's an excellent example of not doing due diligence.

In the years since the now infamous Dion Phaneuf trade, it's become widely reported that Darryl Sutter did not shop Phaneuf. He made two or three offers around the league, found a deal that was "good enough", and made it. He limited his options and and took whatever he could get. That, ladies and gentlemen, is not due diligence.

The Surface and Underlying Numbers

But would doing the research and putting time have prevented the unfortunate situation the Flames find themselves in with Matty Franchise today? Should the Flames have expected Stajan to utterly burn out? Or is there some mystery cause behind one of the worst contracts on the Calgary Flames? First, let's start with Stajan's boxcars.

Season Age Tm Lg GP G A PTS GC +/- PIM EV PP SH GW S S% TOI ATOI
2002-03 19 TOR NHL 1 1 0 1 1 1 0 1 0 0 0 1 100 11 11:00
2003-04 20 TOR NHL 69 14 13 27 11 7 22 14 0 0 0 63 22.2 759 11:00
2005-06 22 TOR NHL 80 15 12 27 11 5 50 8 3 4 5 83 18.1 931 11:38
2006-07 23 TOR NHL 82 10 29 39 13 3 44 8 1 1 1 132 7.6 1324 16:09
2007-08 24 TOR NHL 82 16 17 33 13 -11 47 13 2 1 3 127 12.6 1550 18:54
2008-09 25 TOR NHL 76 15 40 55 19 -4 54 9 5 1 1 114 13.2 1287 16:56
2009-10 26 TOT NHL 82 19 38 57 20 -6 32 12 7 0 4 132 14.4 1551 18:55
2009-10 26 TOR NHL 55 16 25 41 15 -3 30 9 7 0 2 99 16.2 1033 18:47
2009-10 26 CGY NHL 27 3 13 16 5 -3 2 3 0 0 2 33 9.1 518 19:11
2010-11 27 CGY NHL 76 6 25 31 10 1 32 5 0 1 0 81 7.4 1081 14:14
2011-12 28 CGY NHL 61 8 10 18 7 -3 29 8 0 0 1 77 10.4 794 13:01
Career     NHL 609 104 184 288 105 -7 310 78 18 8 15 810 12.8 9288 15:15

Stats from Hockey Reference

As you can see, Stajan was hardly a career 50+ point player. At the time of the extension he was nearing his second fifty point season, but two in a row isn't much of a trend. Prior to that Stajan had two seasons over 30 points and two under. Hoping for a repeat of 50+ points wasn't ludicrous, but it also wasn't a sure thing. Expecting between 30 and 45 points would be entirely more reasonable.

His point-per-game average in the current and two seasons prior to the extension was 0.61, which plays out to 50 points over an 82 game season. Not a superstar, but a quality player. After the contract extension? His play fell to a ghastly 0.39 points-per-game, which pro-rates to 32 points in an 82 game season. (As a note, I'm using the extension as the splitting point because his contract is the issue, but the reality is his play didn't fall off until after the 2009-10 season. His play with the Flames after the extension but before the off-season was exactly on par with the previous two seasons and change: 0.6 PPG).

So what changed? Why did his points-per-game fall by a third? First, let's check the fancy stats. 

Season Off Zone Start % Corsi Rel On-Ice Sh% PDO QualComp Rank P/60 TOI/60
2007-08 49.9 4.4 6.95 972 4 1.23 13.66
2008-09 53.2 1.6 10.32 993 2 2.42 12.39
2009-10* 54.6 1.2 8.71 980 N/A 1.93 14.44
2010-11 53 3.1 8.88 993 8 1.8 12.31
2011-12 48 4.8 7.37 992 10 1.3 11.36

A couple notes: I filtered players by limiting it to forwards with more than 30 GP.

On the QualComp Rank column: instead of listing QualComp, I list the rank as it is relative to his teammates in a given season. 0.1 in one season might be great and 0.1 in another season might be mediocre. Furthermore, 2009-10 isn't really available since he was traded and his numbers would be across two teams. In short, not a number I feel comfortable with.

Discussion

So what do we learn from the above table? Not much- he's always been a throughly mediocre possession player- on the plus side, but not by much. On-ice shooting percentage tells us very little as well. His BTN-era career average is 8.446, meaning his only significant outlier season, 2008-09, was off by only 1.874.

His zone starts tell a little bit of the story- his best two years were the two he had his highest zone starts, but there was minimal fall off in 2010-11 when his scoring fell off. Similarly, QualComp offers little help: he played the easiest competition in his worst years relative to his teammates. In some of his best years he played middling or difficult comp.

Finally, his rates per 60 minutes tell us little. The Points/60 column ranges from 1.23 to 2.42 and the Time on Ice/60 ranges from 11.36 to 14.44. Both of these would offer answers if Stajan's fall-off was minimal, but it's not.

The fancy stats show there was a bubble that was going to burst: his ice-time has lessened, zone starts slightly worsened, his on-ice and personal SH% both fell from his career years; but nothing really explains here the drop to his current level. The time is identifiable as the off-season between 2009-10 and 2010-11, but what actually happened to cause it at that time is completely ineffable with the information available.

Next I'll look at the chance for redemption and what it would take for Matt Stajan to play at an "acceptable" level.

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Arik works in Search and Rescue in the United States Coast Guard and is a former managing editor of the SBN Flames blog, Matchsticks and Gasoline.
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#1 digits
May 24 2012, 03:43PM
Trash it!
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ugh the flames would have been better off putting phaneuf on waivers since it was just a salary dump no need to lose their 4th round pick in Keith Aulie which is where the flames lost that deal in the first place . Phaneuf hasn't been productive since hamrlik left the flames but hey nobody would actually know that unless they followed what had happened since 2005/2006 .

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