To give you an idea how far Matt Stajan’s stock has plummeted in Calgary, consider what Flames coach Brent Sutter said earlier this afternoon.
“Well, we are going to dress 12 forwards tonight so Matt’s going in to play center ice for us,” Sutter told NHL.com prior to tonight’s game against Vancouver. “We need Matt to come in and he’s got to bring us some juice and he’s got to be a real solid, competitive player for us. I’m not putting any expectations on him or anything like that.”
Is now a good time to mention Calgary signed Stajan to a four-year, $14-million extension in March of 2010? Because I feel like it is.
Stajan’s been a healthy scratch for the last two games, the low point in what’s already been a forgettable year. He’s recorded just a single point in seven contests and seen his ice time dwindle from a high of 13:56 (back on Oct. 13 vs. Montreal) to a low of 8:15 (the last game he played, Oct. 22 vs. Nashville)
What’s worse, he didn’t even get replaced by another center. Rather than roll four guys down the middle, Sutter has opted to dress an extra defenseman and play just three centers lately. Those three centers? Brendan Morrison (who Calgary signed after Vancouver cut him), Roman Horak (who hadn’t played in the NHL prior to this season) and Olli Jokinen (who is Olli Jokinen).
“I’d be lying if I said I’m not frustrated,” Stajan said about his current situation. “Obviously I’m not happy with the situation because I want to play — every player does. I get my chance tonight and go in there and do a job.”
Stajan is drawing in tonight mostly out of necessity. The Canucks are deep down the middle and one of the NHL’s top faceoff teams, so Calgary needs to counter that. Stajan will likely center the fourth line between Tom Kostopoulos and Tim Jackman.
Regardless of how tonight turns out, Stajan can take solace in the fact he’s not the only high-priced guy routinely parked in press row. Anton Babchuk, PHT’s 2nd Dud of the week last week, looks like he’ll be a healthy scratch again tonight for the sixth time in eight games — this after signing a $2.5-million deal with Calgary back in July.