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Moving on

by Torie Peterson / Calgary Flames

CALGARY, AB -- To say Matt Stajan's first full season with the Calgary Flames was something he wasn't expecting would be an understatement.

After posting 19 goals between his time with the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Flames in the 2009-10 campaign, Stajan was looking to surpass the 20-goal mark for the first time in his career this past year.

It didn't work out that way.

All in all, he put up six tallies and 31 points. It was the lowest goal total he's had since entering into the NHL in 2003-04 and he's only dipped below 30 points once - his first full year in the League.

"It was a tough year," he sighed. "I'm not here to make any excuses. I just didn't play well consistently. I wanted to put up some more goals and contribute a lot more. It's not like I didn't try and wasn't working hard, it just never seemed to come together at any point."

The 2010-11 season looked bright for the 27 year-old when he came into training camp.

After being dealt to Calgary from Toronto in seven-player deal that saw Dion Phaneuf shipped off to the Leafs, then-general manager Darryl Sutter inked Stajan to a four-year contract hoping he could help fill some of the holes down the middle for the club. Before the 2010-11 preseason, he was optimistic about his first full season in Calgary.

"I think I can really help this team and grow as a player," he said in training camp.

During the Flames early struggles, head coach Brent Sutter tinkered with lines and Stajan was thrown out with Jarome Iginla and Alex Tanguay on the first line. The experiment didn't work out as planned and he spent the remainder of the year bouncing between linemates before finding himself centering rookies Greg Nemisz and Lance Bouma in the last stretch of games.

"When you have chemistry with guys, things go easier. You see some of the lines that just worked this year and guys were rolling. I didn't seem to have that with anybody this year, switching linemates all year.

"My minutes dropped off a lot down the stretch and I just couldn't string together a long streak of scoring. Throughout everybody's career, there's stretches where things just go in and everything is working for you. It never happened for me this year and it was tough."

On Nov. 22, the Flames paid a visit to the New York Rangers and the game would end up altering Stajan's entire season. As he cruised into the offensive zone and backhanded the puck off to Mark Giordano, Marc Staal blasted him with an absolutely jarring hit. Stajan hit the ice and struggled to get himself off, looking very woozy and unable to maintain his balance.

He refused to blame his season on the hit but admitted he wasn't the same player afterward.

"You can't make excuses. I came back and tried to find my game as quick as I could. Yeah, it was a big hit but I've been hit hard like that very year. You just bounce back. When you come back, you've got to find your way again. I tried that and just couldn't get in a rhythm."

Stajan knows his lack of production means a summer of less than savory comments about his role on the team but is fully prepared for the blast.

"There will probably be a lot of bad rap about me this summer and take a lot of heat but just come back next year and try to prove all that wrong and that this past season was just a blip and not something that's going to keep on happening. I am a better player than I showed this year, that's for sure."

Stajan will be spending his summer working on building up his strength and getting himself mentally prepared for the season ahead.

"I've got to get stronger and keep working. You work hard every summer, physically, and try to get yourself ready. That's one thing I focus on every summer but even the mental side, you've got to find your way. I had trouble this year with my confidence and that's something I've got to work on and make sure I'm always positive, finding the right things to think about.

"When you're playing with confidence, it's a world of difference in how you play, especially for a guy like myself and the way I play."

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