Stajan gets wake-up call

Matt Stajan has just one goal in 32 games for the Flames. AL CHAREST/Calgary Sun

Matt Stajan has just one goal in 32 games for the Flames. AL CHAREST/Calgary Sun

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:43 PM ET

At this point, it’s only a warning shot.

It’s up to Calgary Flames centre Matt Stajan to prove a brief message is enough.

When the puck dropped for both of last weekend’s games, Stajan started with a demotion. Instead of skating in a top-six role on a line with Jarome Iginla and Alex Tanguay, he was moved to the No.-4 trio.

In both outings, he was eventually back with Iginla and Tanguay, and it appears he will be there when they face the Phoenix Coyotes Wednesday night, but you can bet Stajan knows how quickly that can happen again.

Especially with veteran Brendan Morrison skating on the fourth line and capable of trading places.

“We need contributions from all four lines, and when that’s not going, there’s going to be a mix-up,” Stajan said philosophically about the yo-yo trip.

Unfortunately for Stajan, contribution hasn’t been a consistent word for him since arriving in Calgary in the blockbuster trade which sent Dion Phaneuf to the Toronto Maple Leafs last season.

When Stajan arrived, it was with 16 goals and 41 points in 55 games with the Leafs in the best offensive season of his career.

But after a decent debut in the Flaming C, with three goals and five points in his first nine games, things have gradually gone downhill.

He’s netted just one goal in his last 32 games as a Flame — none in the last six — and admits things haven’t been easy. 

“Any player who cares gets frustrated. You want to contribute,” Stajan said. “That’s the game — ups and downs — but one thing you can control is your hard work, and you’ve got to try not to get too frustrated.

“I just have to play my game. Even when I’m playing with Jarome and Tangs,

I have to concentrate on playing my game. I think maybe

I got away from that a little bit and tried to do too much. I think you’ve just got to keep it simple.”

As much as talent is critical to a player’s success, there comes a time when they try too much. Or, in Stajan’s case, according to head coach Brent Sutter, deviate from his game.

“He can make plays, but he’s not an Alex Tanguay-type guy,” Sutter said. “Sometimes, he gets caught up (thinking he’s got to be a passer).

“He’s got to get some ugly opportunities for us around the net. This is just working with Staje. Over time, hopefully, we can get his level of game where it needs to be.”

Stajan has one goal and

10 points in 14 games this season, but goes into the Phoenix game with assists in back-to-back outings.

In Stajan’s defence, a separated shoulder suffered during his first pre-season game still has him “in catch-up mode,” said Sutter. 

“I think some of it’s been he missed a lot of time early,” said the coach. “I’m sure he’s a little frustrated, but I have a lot of time for Staje. He’s a caring guy and he plays hard, for the most part.”

Who knows? Maybe the not-so-gentle reminder is all that was needed.

“I’m the type of guy that wants it to work for the team,” he said. “If I’m playing a role of maybe more of an energy guy, I’m gonna go do that. But I’m always going to be the same player, and I’m trying to do the same things.”

— with files from Steve Macfarlane

randy.sportak@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/RandySportak


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