Flames Watch: Stajan miscast as first-line player

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Center Matt Stajan will never be the player Flames fans hoped he’d be when acquired from Toronto last season. He’s a good guy who works hard, but he’s always been miscast as a top-six forward. It happened to him as a Maple Leaf and it’s happened again as a Flame.

Don’t get me wrong, Stajan is a nice player to have. He’s got some offensive chops and can put together scoring streaks when playing in the right situations. The problem is he normally doesn’t skate in those situations.

Stajan could be as good a third line pivot as there is in the league. He’s smart, responsible, effective in both ends, decent on draws and will throw his body around when the time is right. Just the kind of guy you want playing against other third-liners, killing penalties and logging power play time on the second unit.

But put Stajan up against the opposition’s top checking line and you’re not going to get much production out of him. Worse, have him skating against other teams’ scoring lines and Stajan won’t be able to keep up. He should not have to try to equal the likes of Henrik Sedin or Joe Thornton or Ryan Getzlaf; Stajan’s simply not that type of player. Check them, maybe. Score with them, not a chance.

And what happens when he’s miscast in such a role? He’s slammed for a lack of production and his inability to match other top centers, guys like Jarome Iginla get off to slow starts and teams falter.

And I think Darryl and Brent Sutter knew that, which is why they took another stab at Olli Jokinen during the summer. Of course, Stajan had to be re-signed, you don’t trade Dion Phaneuf for a package of players billed as making the team’s top six forwards much deeper and then let the best of them walk at the first opportunity.

Calgary sitting near the bottom of the Western Conference standings isn’t Stajan’s fault, he’s a symptom of what ails the Flames. But Matt Stajan is, through no fault of his own, a poster child for the Flames’ season to date – unable to score much, unable to stop the opposition much and overmatched much of the time.

This article was originally published in Metro News. For more hockey commentary, check out Metro Sports.

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