All aboard the Stajan Wagon

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):

  Points/60 Rank
2010 1.99 71st
2011 1.69 151st
2012 1.31 224th
2013 1.96 87th

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:

  Points/60 Rank
Henrik Sedin 2.82 2nd
Ryan Kesler 1.79 111th
Matt Stajan 1.76 120th
Brad Richardson 1.33 239th
Mike Santorelli 1.03 295th

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.

  • beloch

    I agree with most post about Matt Stajan. The guy shows up and plays a good game once every 10 or so, last thing the Canucks need is a guy that only helps when he scores then only scores a few goals. The Canucks problems have to be solved internally. Luo has to be better with the game on the line. Sure he is sporting 2-3 goal games, but the defense is a lot stronger in front of him. Burrows Booth and Kassian need to get straight. Both booth and burrows are making north of 4 mil and need to show it, plus Kassian needs to get rid of that bust tag. I don’t know how it will happen since Torts seems to like benching booth and plays Kass the same minutes as Sestito. Kass is a much better player than tom but…..hopefully once goals start hitting the back of the net! Bieska will start playing like a Dman not a glorified forward that doesn’t back check.

    • beloch

      For the sake of discussion I’d argue that trying to solve this problem internally has gotten us to this point. Where it’s pretty obvious we need a little more than what we have just to keep pace. Although I’m kinda on the fence, a fair amount of the lifting has to come from within. Circumstance and the way the team is constructed dictates that.

      I agree on Burr and Booth. They both need to earn their paycheques. They are well beyond getting payed for their potential. Having that much money tied up in so little offence is never good. Defence, all around, needs to be more focused and consistent when it comes closing time. All of them, as a unit, including Lu. This is something that has plagued the team for years. *wrestles with image of Lu yelling at the Ref while the Ducks score*

      Kassian, on the other hand needs to find his game. He lost it under AV. I think letting him muck around and throw some punches on the 4th is actually going to help him more than being in the top 6. It lets him get back to the roots of his game without the pressures of top 6 minutes. He was a bruiser in Junior and blossomed from there. He was quickly reined in by AV who wasn’t a big fan of the “Bull in China Shop” style. Torts is. Let the kid hit and fight his way up, it’s what has worked with him in the past. It’s what got him here and made him confident. Just watch, these kind of guys need the physical juices flowing to gain an their true offensive edge. A few perimeter goals, while a bonus, aren’t going to kickstart the machine.

      Last game I finally saw something showing in Kass, and thought to myself, it’s only a matter of time now. A few more scraps and a couple more bonecrushing hits and it snowballs. I could be wrong, but there’s hoping, because what he can bring is a part of the solution. Although I still think we need a some outside help to step back into Elite consideration and make up the gap they have established in the standings.

  • beloch

    Stajan is playing the toughest minutes of any Flames center right now and doing okay, but not great. Okay, but not great, describes Matt Stajan no matter how he’s deployed it seems. If you give him buttery-soft minutes on the fourth line against total chumps he’ll do okay, but not great. However, if you deploy him against the Malkins and Crosby’s of the league, he’ll do okay, but not great.

    If your team has a giant gaping hole in it through which the opposition always seems to pour through and decimate your hapless goalie, Stajan is the man to plug in an okay, but not great fashion. No matter how big or how small that hole is, Stajan will plug it, not like a firm rubber stopper, but more like a nice firm sponge that will let a manageable trickle through, no matter what kind of hellish torrent is on the other side. He is the man of mediocrity!

    What is a man who can rise to adequately fill but not not excel in any position he’s placed worth? Something.

    The Canucks, however, are currently sitting outside of a playoff spot. They’re good, but not great, just like Stajan. Should they trade for Stajan? Well, they have #$%@-all to trade. I’m sure they could throw every damned thing they own at Feaster for Stajan and buy the damned player, but the Canucks would still be good, but not great. The rebuild is calling dudes. Buying Stajan is a delaying action, not a fix. As a Flames fan, I know how multiple seasons of being in both decline and denial can be. Accept it. The window has closed. Start building instead of believing in the girlie men twins who have accomplished absolutely #$%%-all.

    • beloch

      Not sure how you can slam the Sedins. They have accomplished as much as your precious Iginla, if not more. Maybe you could give Iggy one more Oly gold medal, but as for their career accomplishments, they are equals (although having Daniel AND Henrik trumps the crap out of having only one Iggy).

      I do agree that the Canucks should avoid paying a king’s ransom for a guy like Stajan. At some point this team does need to address its lack of scoring. I’m not sure anyone on Calgary can do that.

  • I say no to Stajan for one simple reason: I’m sick of seeing all our drafted players and draft picks being strewn out around the league for the services of some guy to play for 2, 3 months at best.

    Odds are, you’re not going to win a cup or not because you went out and got a rental. You’ll win a cup because you already had a good team. Especially with the way the Canucks are spiriling down, down, down this season, I don’t want to see a potential future player be traded away just so that, you know, we have a better shot at the playoffs. If we do manage to win the cup this year (I’m not saying we will, I’m just giving a hypothetical albeit extremely unlikely scenario), it won’t be because we went out and got Stajan for a 2nd and Gaunce or whatever. And then Stajan goes somewhere else anyway, and we’re stuck without the pick and the prospect.

  • beloch

    Great work Cam, as usual.

    Stajan would be welcome, heck – David Booth seems to be welcome now that they can’t win a game.

    But realistically, Canucks don’t have the assets to make a trade for anyone valuable. What they really need is goaltending. They need their big $$ goaltender to stop sporting one of the leagues worst even strength SV%. Something he’s done all season so far. He’s not getting the goal support, but he’s not stopping the pucks he needs to.

    Seriously, why isn’t anyone concerned about Luongo? It’s wayyyy past October, it’s 1/3 into the season. This guy has been a top 5 or 10 goalie in this league every yr – up till last yr. So they trade the younger cheaper, arguably better goaltender in Schneider, and keep the guy who’s continuing his efforts from last season disaster? How is no one concerned right now. What if he can’t wrap his head around being stuck in Vancouver. What if he never reaches his elite level status again?

    Concern leve: Extremely high.

    • beloch

      Well you hit the nail on the head..They don`t call him “late goal Lou” for nothing,.Its almost money in the bank that in a close game, he “will” let in that late goal.Ye,s there are defensive breakdowns, but good grief!! he`s got to step up and make that big save for them.At critical times (especially with less than 5 mins left in games)he just falls apart..Pucks seem to be going right through him..!!.we`ve seen this for years with Lou,and how many times this last week? 2-3?

  • Not really sure on this one. Seems like more of a sideways move for a contract we let walk at the end of the year. We have lots of 3rd line depth guys that take draws. I also can’t see Stajan’s game melding too smoothly with what Torts is trying to establish here. He puts up points from time to time but he’s kind of a cream puff. Affordable or not, the 3.5 million would serve our needs a lot better being spent elsewhere.

  • While you make a good case for Stajan, I think I would rather see the Canucks do something more bold.

    I would target Evander Kane, find out what it would take and pull the trigger. It might hurt the team in the short term, but it gets you a younger scoring power forward who seems to be in a strained relationship with his current coach and franchise.

    This seems to me to be a situation similar to Jeff Carter being on the block. Although I think this would be a huge piece in the long term future, along the lines of when Calgary added Iginla

  • KleptoKlown

    Some fans were suggesting a Booth for Erat trade. Have to think that if Washington was willing to take equal salary they could get a better player than Booth.

    If the Canucks did have the chance to get Erat for Booth, it would be a worthwhile risk to take. The contracts are pretty much the same, both expire in 2015. Erat has a 250k higher cap hit, but his actual dollars go down to 2.25 million next season. Should be able to move him for a low draft pick to a team that wants to get to the cap floor but save actual dollars. This of course would open 4.5 million in cap space, and the Canucks would still have 1 final buyout that they could possibly use as trade bait.

    Unlikely to happen, but hey, with the Canucks record what it is, we gotta come up with something to fix these problems.

    • “If the Canucks did have the chance to get Erat for Booth, it would be a worthwhile risk to take. The contracts are pretty much the same, both expire in 2015. Erat has a 250k higher cap hit, but his actual dollars go down to 2.25 million next season. Should be able to move him for a low draft pick to a team that wants to get to the cap floor but save actual dollars. This of course would open 4.5 million in cap space, and the Canucks would still have 1 final buyout that they could possibly use as trade bait.”

      It’s almost as though Washington shouldn’t bother with Booth and dump Erat on a floor team themselves…

  • There is no way a team as mediocre as Vancouver should waste another 2nd round pick and good prospect on a middle of the roster rental player.

    The Canucks have enough complimentary players to fight for a playoff spot.

    On the other hand, it’s more realistic than signing Grabovski as a UFA so a B+ for progress…

    • Wouldn’t want to miss out on the next Alexandre Mallet, Anton Rodin or Taylor Ellington.

      If you can ever trade a pick past No. 25 for an above replacement level player, my theory is you do it. The draft is pretty much a crap shoot past that point anyway.

      • If we’re cherrypicking, don’t forget Edler, Hansen, Raymond, Bieksa…

        The Canucks position on the win curve matters as does how many wins/points to the standings Stajan can be expected to add.

        If you want to go and quantify that, be my guest.

        But I’m guessing that it won’t deviate too far from the logical notion that a marginal upgrade means little to Vancouver…

        • One of those guys was a second round pick. Like I said, crap shoot.

          Draft picks are overvalued in deals for NHL talent, and undervalued on draft day, when teams will trade two picks to trade “up” to some spot in the second round.

          Look at this and set your parameters between 2003 and 2011. Once you’re out of the 20s, there are just a few spikes. NHLers are insanely tough to project, except for the very top guys, when they’re 17. Teams miss more on guys after 20 than they hit.

          • Yes that is all fine and dandy. And obvious.

            But we’re talking about a marginal (rental) upgrade for a coach who only uses 9 forwards a game.

            Let’s say Stajan is added for picks/prospects.

            What exactly is the endgame considering Torts uses 9 forwards?

            To bump Kassian to the 4th line and POSSIBLY earn a wildcard spot?

            Considering the hole the Canucks are in, the strength of the division/conference, their current chances of earning a wildcard spot and the marginal upgrade that Stajan would provide, it makes little sense for this team.

            I have no issue trading draft picks. Trade ’em all if it improves the short and long term outlook of the franchise.

            A Stajan transaction would be little more than a hope and prayer for this dying empire…

        • It’s starting to get worrisome how often you reference psychological needs on this board.

          Mental health problems are no laughing matter my friend and there is no need to project your issues on here.

          There are a number of resources available to you and, of course, my door is always open.

          Though, obviously, I can’t offer you and confidentiality…

          On another note, you shouldn’t appeal to the authority of NHL general managers.

          Actually, you shouldn’t appeal to authority as a general rule if you want to be taken seriously by the logical thinking among us.

          But you REALLY shouldn’t appeal to the authority of NHL general managers.

          There’s a history of poor financial decisions and work stoppages that I encourage you to look up…