Ok, so he's not really enigmatic. I just like the sound of the title. Makes it seem like I have something profound to say...
Anyway, here is the story of the week the Flames traded for Matt "My Wife Is Hot and That's ALL I Have Going for Me" Stajan as seen through my life experiences.
Be prepared. This is long. Oh, but it makes fun of the Leafs AND Oilers!!!
January 26th, 2010: Los Angeles Kings at Toronto Maple Leafs:
- 5 days prior to Darryl Sutter's dramatic downward spiral as GM of Flames.
I was in Toronto for business, with nothing to do for an evening. Of course, I meander down to the ACC to see if I can snag some nice tix for the Kings/Leafs game. Grabbed some great seats (1st row of the 2nd tier) for a decent price and flew solo into the ACC, a fantastically beautiful stadium. Really made me hope the Flames and Oilers are able to get new buildings built.
Anyway, after meeting Brian Burke (who was raising money for Haiti that night) and getting interviewed for the evening news (under a pseudonym of course, because what I said would have had me confused for nothing less then a total mental-case), I proceeded into the game.
Leafs fans and Oilers fans always amuse me. They think their team is going to win the Cup every year, regardless of how terrible they are. The attitude amongst the building this night was no different. I listened to stories from random fans about how great this years team was. The Monster was going to lead them into a new generation. Luke Schenn is the greatest young D-man in the league and Matty Franchise (yes, they often called him that) was having a career year and it was inevitable, playoffs were on the horizon.
Cheap laughs, for sure.
"The whole world knows Matt Stajan is a terrible hockey player," I thought to myself. "Hope I don't have to listen to this crap all night."
I shook my head and settled into warm-up, where more hilarity ensued. Both teams came out onto the ice, and the mulleted former-Oiler, Ryan Smyth is the only player on the ice without a helmet. Skating about the rink as his flowing mullet flailed in the crisp ACC air behind him. I laugh out loud, point him out to several disinterested other fans, and snap a pick with my god-awful BB Pearl.
"Remember when he cried when he left Edmonton?" I was thinking a lot, being that I'm at the game by myself like a great big loser. "Haha, yep, I do. That was hilarious."
Anyway, I'm getting way off topic here, but I couldn't write about that game without mentioning the Smitty story. (How'd Ryan O'Marra and Robert Nilsson turn out E-Town? And people think the Flames need to trade Iginla... wow)
Puck drop. The Kings dominate the entire game from start to finish and skate away with an easy 5-3 win. Smitty was ON FIRE. Best player on the ice all night long. Guess he showed me.
Highlight for the Leafs was Nik Hagman, who sniped two beauties (when the game was out of reach of course).
The highlight for ME? Well, that was easy. Listening to Leafs fans turn on Matty Franchise as the game wore on. He must have completely flubbed 6 or 7 point blank scoring chances. The people went from smiling and eating overpriced popcorn and the worst pizza known to all of mankind (Pizza Pizza, BARF!) to literally making up new curse words and practically throwing their children on the ice they were so mad at Stajan.
Unintentional comedy at its highest! Seriously, I thought I'd died and gone to heaven with all the funny things I saw happen at this game. Plus, it was taking my mind off the Flames, where things were anything but smooth, and the $40 million dollar franchise defenseman; resident village idiot, Dion Phaneuf, was literally being booed by his home fans at the 'dome.
Little did I know what was waiting for me upon my return to Calgary. Really was a roller-coaster week here, folks.
January 30th, 2010: Edmonton Oilers at Calgary Flames
- the eve of Darryl Sutter's destruction
I roll into the dome with 4 other buddies. Getting ready for the big tilt against the upstart (haha) Edmonton Oilers. These are always big games, regardless of standings. Countless fights in the stands and drunk people everywhere. HNIC, baby. Well, my friends and I decide to go together and buy a swack of 50/50.
Long story short:
We win the 50/50 ($20,000) and the Flames destroy the Oil 6-1. We partied til the sun came up.
And then, the text message that changed my life.
From my good pal Erin Lucas of The Lounge Radio Station in Lethbridge. It's possible I saw her at the game the night before, but I don't remember.
Anyway, her text read:
"Dude, did you hear about Dion?"
I thought for a second that maybe he was injured, got hit by a car crossing the street or something (I mean, he's literally that bright). But no, my life was forever altered.
Darryl Sutter had traded Dion for loose change. Worse than loose change. Matt freaking Stajan. Matty Franchise.
I locked myself in the bathroom of my Okotoks townhouse, turned off the lights and let my hang-over headache overtake my body. It felt better than believing we had actually traded for Matt Stajan. I could just feel all the Leafs fans I laughed at at the ACC laughing right back at me. And, to make it worse, Sutter threw in the Flames top defensive prospect.
Why? Who knows. I picture Darryl sitting in his office, hair amiss, throwing darts at a picture of Mike Keenan on his billboard and whispering to himself, "I had to do it. I had to do it. I had to do it." I mean, there really is no other explanation to the monstrosity he had just committed on our beloved franchise.
It was a dark day. The $4,000 I pocketed from the 50/50... yeah, didn't help.
Little did we all know, it was going to get worse.
On March 1st, 2010 it was announced. 7 terrible games into his Flames tenure and Darryl Sutter had extended Stajan for 4 years.
I'm nearly in tears at this point.
Then, the dollar figure of $3.5 mil per. EGADS! Now, I'm nearly numb from all the damage that Darryl had incurred on the team. I barely felt this. A single tear sailed down my southern-Albertan wind-burnt face.
I often imagine the negotiations went something like this:
Darryl: Matt, we'd like to talk extension.
Stajan: Really? But, I've only got 3 points in a month with the team? Sure, let's talk.
Darryl: We were thinking somewhere around 3 point ------
Stajan: (emphatically interrupting) WHERE DO I SIGN!
Darryl: Listen Matt, I'd like to go over the details with you. 3 point 5 ------
Stajan: (interrupting again) GIMME A PEN!
Darryl: Matt, settle down, I think you'll find this deal very agreeable if you just sit and listen for a second. We were thinking 3 point 5 million for 4 years ------
Stajan: (jumping across the table, scrambling for the dotted line) GIVE ME THE DAMN CONTRACT!
*He scribbles some incoherent semblance of his name on the dotted line*
Darryl: We thought we'd throw in a no-movement too....
*In the background, Ken King has snuck into the corner of the room and frantically searches his iPhone for Jay Feaster's number...*
Since then, my feelings haven't changed. Terrible trade and even worse extension. Had the Flames traded Dion for Ian White, straight up, they would be totally fine right now. In a strange twist though, I think Flames fans are totally content with having Anton Babchuk be the only decent piece ending up on the team because of this deal...
To Stajan's credit. He's been very good on faceoffs this year and a pretty good piece on the penalty kill. But, you could have had that in Ryan Johnson for 10% of the cost of Stajan. Those guys are a dime a dozen and play for the league minimum. Stajan gets 7 times that much money.
But Stajan's most important quality happens to be a detriment.
The man can make 100% bona fide scoring chances look like the most difficult thing in the universe. He has one helluva pair of stone hands. The guy can find the goalie's chest in an empty net.
Just this week, with 5 seconds to go in a 1-goal game, Jarome Iginla fed Matt Stajan a gorgeous stick to stick pass. With the net empty, Stajan sat 7 or 8 feet away from the empty cage. Puck in the wheel house.
He missed the net by about 5 feet. My mouth dropped. Then I laughed. I mean, the game was over. But, had I really just saw what I thought I just saw? Yep.
Last night's game in Dallas saw Stajan with a chance at retribution. He sat in front of the net, while Lehtonen sprawled in the splits with no ability to move and Stajan pounded that puck into his pad like his life depended on it. With nearly 95% of the net wide open and a supremely important game on the line, he couldn't find the ability, nor saw the opportunity to put the puck into a gaping cage.
It's his gift.
So, Toronto Maple Leafs fans can rejoice. Brian Burke clearly did win that trade with Darryl Sutter. Not because he got Dion Phaneuf (he still plays, right?) but because he fleeced us with Stajan.
But, I have to wonder... nay... HOPE! With all my being, that Jay Feaster can somehow Jedi Mind Trick some unsuspecting GM to take Stajan away from us.