Sitting with Stajan

MIKE ZEISBERGER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:59 PM ET

CALGARY — In just a couple of weeks, Matt Stajan has gone from first-line centre to, well, even he doesn’t know.

With just one goal in his past 43 outings, a shoulder injury suffered in the first game of the preseason, and a subsequent suspected concussion, life after the Maple Leafs has not played out to be the feel-good story the Mississauga native had hoped for.

And things aren’t getting much better.

With a huge contest on Thursday against his former team looming on everyone’s mind in Calgary, Stajan must be wondering if he even will have the chance to face the Leafs at the Saddledome, given the fact that he has been a healthy scratch for the past two games.

The guessing among those who follow the team on a daily basis is that Flames coach Brent Sutter, having made his point, would dress Stajan against the Leafs, the logic being that Stajan will be motivated to play against a Toronto team that traded him Jan. 31.

But Sutter is facing a crisis of his own.

With the Flames at or near the Western Conference basement for several weeks, he and general manager Darryl Sutter, his brother, have been on the hot seat. As a result, he likely will be making decisions from his head, not his heart.

Either way, Stajan, who turns 27 on Sunday, has been forced to do a lot of soul searching these days.

“It’s been a roller-coaster ride since I got here, with the injuries and our inconsistent play,” he said. “We’d like to have won more but it hasn’t worked out. There are guys who haven’t played up to the level they should be and that includes me. That’s why I have to make sure I get to the level where being scratched is no longer an option.”

With the Leafs and their entourage coming to town in what is being billed here as the return of Dion Phaneuf, Stajan can expect to be reminded ad nauseum about that mammoth deal almost 10 months ago in which he, Niklas Hagman, Jamal Mayers and Ian White were shipped to Calgary for Phaneuf, Keith Aulie and Fredrik Sjostrom.

Looking back, Stajan admits he had a “weird feeling” that something was in the works in the days leading up to the trade.

“With my contract up at the end of the year, I was expecting something might happen, kind of like it did with Nik Antropov the year before,” Stajan said. “But I really wasn’t sure it would happen that fast.

“I remember being on the phone with Ian White that day. He was telling me that he had just been traded. Suddenly another call came in. It was Brian Burke. Sure enough, that’s how I found out I was in the same deal as Whitey.

“It was tough. I’m from the area. I grew up a Leaf fan. Every day I came to the rink I considered it a privilege to put on that jersey.”

The Flames soon rewarded Stajan with a four-year, $14 million US contract, a lucrative deal that raised more than a few eyebrows in Toronto. Months later, given his recent struggles, the second-guessing toward Flames management here in Calgary for making such a deal also is beginning to swell.

Through it all, Stajan wants to clarify comments he made earlier this season about all the hype he heard surrounding Phaneuf while he was back home in the Toronto area over the summer.

“I didn’t want people to take that the wrong way,” Stajan said. “My point is, that’s what makes Toronto the great hockey city that it is. It’s just natural that you would hear so much about Dion there during the off-season.”

In the end, Matt Stajan was not out to offend any one.

All he wants is the opportunity to face his former Toronto teammates Thursday.

mike.zeisberger@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/zeisberger


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