November 26 2013 02:33PM
Among forwards with 300 minutes played last season, Matt Stajan was 87th in the National Hockey League in points per 60 minutes, right there with Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin and other big names like Claude Giroux and Evander Kane.
Stajan's dipped a little this season, down from 1.96 points per 60 to 1.56 as his on-ice shot percentage has fallen from 11.9% to 7.3%, but his offence is still there. Playing more minutes than he's seen since his first stint in Calgary, Stajan has nine points in 15 games so far this season. It's not earth-shattering, but Stajan should be a very interesting trading chip as we go into the deadline. Calgary, for all intents and purposes, is out of the race. Stajan's contract is up at the end of this season and he costs a very affordable $3.5-million.
He is, in my view, one of the better options the Canucks could add as they look to increase offence.
The knock on Stajan for his entire career has been, basically, that he played in Toronto as a first line centre but didn't produce like one. Stajan is 29 years old, at the end of his scoring prime, and was always a talented player that simply produced like a second liner. Like that was his only crime.
Here's Stajan's points per 60 over the last four seasons, and his rank among players with at least 6.25 minutes per team game (300 minutes in 2013, and 500 minutes in previous seasons):
Nothing mind-blowing, but productive and durable. If you average up the four years, he's basically produced like a mid-flight second line player, which is the kind of player the Canucks could use. You don't create depth by finding a third line centre, you create depth by finding the best centreman you can and knock good players down the lineup. I think the Canucks need to focus more on offence and talent than on defence, and while Stajan definitely isn't a game-breaker, he provides above average offensive value and is probably worth a goal a week or so above Brad Richardson.
Compare him to other Canucks centremen on the following chart. This is points per 60 between 2009 and 2013, and a ranking among players with at least 1800 minutes played:
Basically, Stajan is close to producing along with Ryan Kesler. This doesn't mean Stajan is as good as Kesler, but it means he produces at a similar level for the minutes he plays.
The wrinkle is what the Flames think of Stajan. There's an excellent piece over at Flames Nation today which makes it seem like Stajan has found a home in Calgary under coach Bob Hartley, after being ignored for years by the Sutter regime:
A buyout was a possibility, although Stajan was hopeful a more promising finish to the previous season under Brent might help his case to stick around under Bob Hartley. He did have a stretch of 14 games through February and March that year that saw him post seven goals and 11 points.
“I didn’t know if a buyout was coming,” Stajan said. “At the end of the season, Brent’s last year, we had a ton of injuries. I started to get more of an opportunity to play. I finished the season — I thought — really well.
“Going into a lockout, you just never know what’s going to happen, what direction the team wants to go. I’m thankful that the new coach that came in, nothing did happen and I was given an opportunity to get back to playing a role I’ve played previously and I’ve been successful at.”
It should be noted that I don't think that Stajan is the perfect fit for Vancouver as an extra centre to add midseason, but I do think it's a good fit and one the team should explore. There's nothing inherently flawed with the Canucks current roster, except that it doesn't have enough firepower right now, and 9th in the West is not a good look for the team currently.
I think both Mike Santorelli and Brad Richardson have performed admirably, but there's not a lot of depth if either goes down to injury or sustains a patch of bad luck. Really, the Canucks current forward core has no room for error. You see what happens when the Sedins slow—everybody slows, and there's not a lot of secondary scoring, and that's with a few of the depth additions producing more than was forecast coming into the season.
In short, I'm not tied to Stajan so much as I'm tied to the idea of somebody like Stajan, with above average offensive ability to come in, preferably before the Canucks lose a centre to injury and the asking price goes way up. Otherwise, I like the headline "Stajan Wagon". Maybe he'll be available, and act as a mercenary for a few months. This may not be the Canucks' year, but rolling over and dying in a year where the West is outrageously tough is probably not the answer, either.