Calgary (Domebeers.com) - 26 games into the NHL regular season, it is safe to say that the Calgary Flames are not a gutsy hockey team.
Sundays loss to the Vancouver Canucks, occurring at a time when the fanbase was looking for reasons to believe, drove home the point that club President Ken King and GM Jay Feaster have built a team with an impressive lack of character.
The Flames are not only doing what it takes to lose on the ice. They are also proving to be a soft as snails group full of that disappointing characteristic that would allow a team to muster only two shots on goal in the final 40 minutes of what could be called the biggest game of their season.
"It all starts with Stajan. He is a real big leader for us in this locker room," offered head coach Brent Sutter.
"He really does inspire the teams play."
In his second year of a four year, $14 million dollar contract, Matt Stajan is finally starting to find his voice, and embrace his role as a locker room leader.
"He's real unprofessional about everything," 22-year-old forward Mikael Backlund said. "He doesn't work very hard in the weight room. In fact, I don't think I have ever seen him in there, but I don't go too often, myself. He doesn't really put in the extra work on the ice, either. He kind of just sits and mopes in his stall. He talks about Mats Sundin a lot, and how Mats used to make him lug his luggage around. He wasn't very good at that either, apparently."
"It's good to see. It's good to have a player like that, where, at my age, I can look and see what it takes to make it in this league."
It's obvious that Stajans lack of work ethic, preparation, and leadership are catching on with more people than just the younger players on the team. Jarome Iginla, who recorded 86 points in 82 games last season, is on pace to set his lowest shot total ever, and is currently projected to score just 20 goals if he continues at his current pace.
"Stajan is a big part it, for sure. He's not a good leader. You could tell as soon as he got in the room," captain Jarome Iginla said. "He's a guy who has played in three playoff games and has never been close to playing in the Stanley Cup finals. He hasn't been through it and he doesn't know what it takes to win."
"He has actually helped Jay (Bouwmeester) to fit in."
When told of what Iginla had said about Jay Bouwmeester and Matt Stajans relationship, Jay Bouwmeester declined to comment, citing "people make me nervous" before he uncomfortably looked around the room and calling for his mother.
While accolades from teammates are always a point of pride for an athlete, the fact that Stajans lack of intangibles are rubbing off on his teammates can be seen in the stat sheet, as well. The Flames are currently ranked 27th in the league in face-offs won, and are 2nd in the league in face-offs lost. They rank 27th in the league in terms of hits delivered, are 14th in the league in blocked shots, 24th in power-play success rate, 24th in shots taken per game, 26th in the league in terms of shoot out winning percentage, and sport the leagues 24th lowest win percentage when leading after the first period. But perhaps most indicative of Stajans influence is the fact that the Flames are ranked 19th in the league for total number of penalties committed.
"We really couldn't be achieving the lack of success without him," offered Flames GM Jay Feaster. "He really hasn't done anything for this club."
Since being acquired by the Flames, Stajan hasn't played in a number of scenarios and he also has not played big minutes. Head coach Brent Sutter has shown a tremendous lack of trust in Stajan.
"You couldn't ask for a better player who fits in with our organization," Sutter said. "He turns the puck over on both ends of the ice, is on the receiving end of big hits in the neutral zone, and doesn't really play well defensively. He doesn't have much offensive skill, either."
"Like I said, a perfect fit for our organization. We are just thrilled to have him."
Matt Stajan has 9 goals and 51 points in 123 games with the Flames spread over portions of three seasons. He is currently on pace to score zero goals this year, while averaging 10:44 of ice time.
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