CALGARY - Matt Stajan has heard from his critics.
He’s preparing to silence them.
Actually, he’s been working hard all summer to make sure he’s prepared as he’s ever been to have a solid year.
“Coming into this season, I’m not standing here and saying I could have done more this summer, because I couldn’t,” Stajan said. “I was in the gym every day — three hours every morning — pushing myself. That’s what I had to do, and that’s what I did. Hopefully, it translates into a great season here.
“That’s the goal.”
Working with former-Flame-turned-fitness-fanatic Gary Roberts and Toronto-based strength and conditioning coach Matt Nichol, Stajan dropped about eight or nine pounds.
“I cut a bit of weight off,” said Stajan, who had a horrendous 2010-11 campaign that got off to a rocky start when he injured his shoulder in the first pre-season game in Vancouver. “I feel great.
“That doesn’t mean I lost strength. The goal is to gain strength and lean out a bit. That’s what I did. I feel quicker on the ice as a result of that.”
Putting up just six goals and 31 points in 76 games last season, Stajan isn’t about to argue that he played well in his first full year as a member of the Flames after coming over in the Dion Phaneuf deal.
“For me to stand here and say last year went the way I wanted it to would be a total lie,” he said. “It was a bad year, from top to bottom. I know that. I want to rebound and show that was a mistake, that was a blip.
“I’m going to work my bag off to do whatever I need to do to be a big piece here.”
Excuses would be easy to come by. The shoulder injury cost him all of training camp, and just when he was feeling right, a crushing blow from Marc Staal in New York during a game against the Rangers left Stajan with a concussion.
Somehow, the 27-year-old is pulling positives from the disastrous season.
“Last year was a good experience for me. I learned a lot. Obviously, it was a tough year, but you learn a lot mentally and what you’ve got to deal with and what you need to do to keep that confidence level that you need to be effective out there.”
He’s not looking for excuses, as eager as he is to prove his detractors wrong.
“I try and ignore all the critics. It hasn’t been a very pleasant summer for me that way, but I think you use that as motivation,” said Stajan, who has played his whole career in Canadian hockey markets in Toronto — his hometown — and Calgary. “There are always critics, no matter what.
“This year I have a lot to prove because obviously the critics have been a little tougher on me than ever before. You try not to think about it too much but you definitely want to prove people wrong.
“That’s motivation. You do want to silence people and shut them up.”