SUN Hockey Pool

Stajan is Phaneuf'd out

Matt Stajan, shown yesterday during the Flames' Red and White scrimmage at Max Bell Arena, heard...

Matt Stajan, shown yesterday during the Flames' Red and White scrimmage at Max Bell Arena, heard plenty about Dion Phaneuf this summer. AL CHAREST/Calgary Sun

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:13 AM ET

If it felt like you were bombarded with Dion Phaneuf news all summer from the centre of the universe, imagine what it was like to live in Toronto.

And imagine if you were Matt Stajan.

Throughout the off-season, the hockey world was inundated with news about the former Flames blueliner, who was dealt to the Maple Leafs in the middle of last season.

There was the appearance on Live with Regis and Kelly when they were in Prince Edward Island.

Then came the highly anticipated ascension to the club’s captaincy, a story which dragged on for a long time and culminated with Phaneuf joining an elite club with the likes of Dave Keon, Ted Kennedy, Darryl Sittler and George Armstrong.

For those Flames faithful who had grown tired of Phaneuf — who was a very polarizing player among the fans — it had to be tough to stomach at times.

Imagine being Stajan, and having to listen to it all, especially the point of view how the Maple Leafs have a leader by trading away a bunch of spare parts, which included Stajan.

“No matter what, everybody in Toronto’s going to say that. People will say, ‘Dion’s the best player and Toronto won the trade’ but people can say what they want,” said Stajan, who was part of the deal along with current Flames Ian White and Niklas Hagman. “But there are three of us here who are quality NHL players and we want to make sure we’re proving that we’re a big part of the deal.

“I really don’t listen to that stuff, but growing up in Toronto and living there in the summer, there’s a lot of hype. That’s just the way Toronto is. I’ve seen it before and all the best to them.”

It wouldn’t take too much for Stajan to make some of that talk dissipate. All he must do is become a 20-goal, 70-point second-line centre, preferably if he teams up with Hagman to make him a 30-goal man.

Yep, just fulfill lofty expectations.

“I just want to contribute,” he said. “We want to have a consistent offence and do that, you can’t rely on just one line to score.

“It can’t just be Iggy’s line.”

The way things are shaping up, Jarome Iginla will be the feature player on a top line with Olli Jokinen and Alex Tanguay.

Stajan has been skating with Hagman and Rene Bourque.

Considering all the line juggling Stajan experienced when he came to Calgary last season, it’s a novelty to skate with some constant wingers.

“I’ve never been a guy who demands or think I should be playing with anybody. I have to make sure I’m playing the best I can and complement whoever I’m playing with,” said Stajan, who is in the first year of a four-year, US$14-million deal. “I’m going to try and make myself better and do the best I can to contribute and make sure we’re contributing.

“We have a lot of depth, a lot of guys who have proven they can score in this league.”

Making the adjustment better is having an actual training camp to get to know his teammates.

Plus having some realistic optimism of making the playoffs, which wasn’t the case the past few seasons in Toronto.

“We have something to prove here. That’s the feeling of everybody in this room,” Stajan said. “We want to prove last year was just a blip and we’re a better team than that.

“In seasons past, in Toronto, it’s different. People didn’t give us a chance at all. Here, some people aren’t giving us the best of chances, but in our dressing room there’s that confidence. We know we have a team that can do a job. That’s exciting.”

randy.sportak@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/RandySportak


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