CALGARY, AB -- Matt Stajan understands that if the Calgary Flames are to make an impact in the lockout-shorted season, both he and the team have to hit the ground running.
Make that hit the ice skating.
With just 48 games on the docket, points are at a premium with all 15 teams in the Western Conference starting the season in the thick of a playoff chase. Because of this, there is no time to feel things out according to Stajan.
“The short schedule, that can be the big difference between playing hockey in the playoffs,” he said.
“You have to break it down like a second half of a season and everybody is in a playoff race. Every game is that much more important right from the start. You can’t let anything slip here because you can fall behind the 8-ball pretty quick.”
A quick start will be personally beneficial to Stajan as well. The Mississauga, ON. native ended last season on the upswing, recording 12 of his 18 points – including seven of his eight goals on the year – in his final 22 games. A lengthy work stoppage will force Stajan to try to recoup some of last year’s lost momentum.
A new boss behind the bench in Bob Hartley should also give Stajan some extra jump, not that the six-foot-one pivot needs it.
“There’s motivation whenever you’re going into a season,” Stajan said. “It’s the best league in the world and you want to make sure you’re in the top of your game but you do have to make sure you’re buying in and gaining the coaches trust as quick as possible.”
Quick, according to Stajan, is the primary adjective to a successful start for both he and the Flames. There isn’t time to drag one’s feet considering the amount of work both players and coaches will have to put into a shortened training camp scenario.
“You’ve got to be on board right from the start,” said Stajan, a veteran of 609 NHL games. “There’s no moving into things slowly. You’ve got to pick up everything quickly. We have a new coach, there’s going to be new strategy, new systems and guys have to learn that right from the get-go. There’s not much time for a learning curve here.”
Which means it is imperative for both Stajan personally and his Calgary club as a whole to ensure cohesiveness from the onset of camp.
“It’s a game of mistakes and if you’re playing the system properly and limiting your mistakes, everyone’s on the same page, everything happens for you and things come easier for the team. That’s the mindset I’m sure throughout the league and we have to make sure we’re actually acting on it.
“We all have to be on the same page and learn. It’s going to be a lot of new things that are thrown at us in the way we’re going to play this year and we all have to be prepared for that.
“Guys are ready. It’s been a long three months for everybody and we finally see the finish line to the start of hopefully a great season for us.”
“Physically and mentally I feel good and it’s a new season, a new coach,” Stajan said. “I feel good. You just want to get going, play some games.”
And hit the ground running in 2013.