Now That They’re Gone: Matt Stajan

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    In my continuing statistical analysis of new and old Maple Leafs, I’ve decided to take a look at Matt Stajan in 2009-10. His play during his Leaf tenure was often a hot button discussion that somewhat divided the fan base. After all, he’s only 26 years old and he has scored over 50 points back to back now. Maybe Burke’s statisticians brought some of his more unknown negative characteristics to light, making the decision to move him a little easier. Thanks again to BehindtheNet.ca for having all of the forthcoming information readily available for the public.

    First up are the basics. Stajan played 82 games this season combined between the Maple Leafs and the Flames. In that time he scored 19 goals and racked up 38 assists for 57 points. To go along with this he was a -6 on the season, while picking up 32PIM. Since he spent most of the season with the Leafs and we are in fact Leafs fans, we’ll take a look at his stats from a Leafs perspective. Before we begin the analysis, it is pertinent to find out who Stajan was playing with on any given night. The results are not all that shocking (courtesy of DobberHockey.com):

    25.93%: Alexei Ponikarovsky – Matt Stajan – Phil Kessel

    The next highest line combo is only 7.6%, so it’s clear that Stajan had fairly constant teammates while on the Leafs. We’ll begin by assessing Stajan’s penalty output on the season in comparison to these two linemates.

    Stajan’s 32PIM were comprised of 14 minor penalties and 1 double minor for roughing. There were no fights, no ten minute misconducts and no major penalties. Kessel, by comparison, had only 8 minor penalties in addition to one fight equalling 21PIM. Ponikarovsky was the least behaved in the group, amassing 61PIM. He took one major penalty (boarding), one game misconduct and a whopping 23 minor penalties. Stajan’s 14 minors are actually quite low on Calgary’s roster, but Kessel is the ideal in terms of minors taken over a season. This part of Stajan’s game is not necessarily a huge negative, unless of course Vesa Toskala is your goaltender.

    Next up we’ll take a look at points. Stajan’s 57 points are better than Ponikarovsky’s 50 and Kessel’s 55. However, his 19 goals are lower than Ponikarovsky’s 21 and Kessel’s 30. So on the surface it seems that Stajan is a decent set up man. Once again, the truth is a little more hidden. Stajan racked up a significant amount of secondary assists. You may have noticed at some point Stajan’s necessity to touch the puck for short bursts before passing the puck off to other players and leaving the play. This shows on his score sheet because his ASST2/60 (the number of secondary assists he gets for every 60 minutes he’s on the ice) is a whopping 0.61. If that seems high to you, don’t worry, because among players who played at least 25 games, Stajan’s ASST2/60 was second highest on both Calgary and Toronto. .

    We all know that +/- is a wonky stat to fall back on. Fortunately, there are a number of more advanced +/- indicators for us to work with. The stats +/-ON/60 and +/-OFF/60 track the goals for and against a team when a certain player is on the ice or on the bench, respectively. Stajan’s +/-ON/60 is -0.20, an indicator that when he’s on the ice, his team is scored on more than it scores. This is obvious from looking at his -6 in his basic stat sheet. His +/-OFF/60 is actually no better at -0.26. What this tells me is two things: that Stajan played on two teams that lost a lot and that when he was on the ice he had minimal impact in conjunction with the other lines.

    There is one more stat that we need to focus on for Stajan and that is Zone Starts. Basically, the Zone Start stat tracks where on the ice a player begins his shifts. Behind the Net tracks this in OPCT, or the percentage of offensive zone starts. Zone Start is actually very important when read in conjunction with a player’s +/-. If a player gets the majority of his shift starts in the offensive zone but has a poor +/-, it makes their shortcomings all the more obvious. They’re being sheltered onto one side of the ice and are still making defensive mistakes. An example of what I’m talking about is Matt Cooke. His OPCT is at 46.4%, second lowest on the Penguins. With so many Zone Starts in the defensive end, a poor +/- would be forgivable. Instead, his +/- is +17, indicating very strong defensive play.

    So how does Stajan measure up? His OPCT is 54.6%. Of players that played 25 games, that is fifth highest on the Flames and eighth highest on the Leafs (as a funny side note, Nazem Kadri’s OPCT in his 1GP was 100%). This all adds up to Stajan getting a large amount of Zone Starts in the offensive zone, but still attaining a low -6 rating. Stajan’s defensive effort has been seen as a strong positive in the past among Leafs fans, but perhaps that aspect of his game was a tad exaggerated.

    The conclusion to be drawn here is by no means that Stajan is a bad player. He’s actually quite decent. The problem comes from fans that exaggerate his defensive play while also expecting him to be a #1 center. He’s a fine complimentary player and would probably fit onto many teams’ second line. Playing him as a top center and paying him $3.5M annually is a problem. A problem that the Maple Leafs no longer have to deal with.