No, Really, Matt Stajan Is a First-Line Centre

Editor's Note: Here's another good look at Matt Stajan that goes well with MF37's piece on the future building blocks of the team and The '67 Sound's look at Matt Stajan's ability to outperform his contract.

In The ’67 Sound's Fanpost earlier today Blurr wondered aloud how Matt Stajan stacks up against the other second line centres when it comes to Behind The Next type stats. I told him I'd look into it.

I did just that, and then I went a little further, cause that’s the kinda guy I am.

The Methodology

Every team in the league has at least one guy playing in a first line centre role, regardless of whether he should be or not.

Every team in the league also has one, possibly two, guys playing in a second line role, regardless of whether he (they) should be or not.

So, I essentially created a list, based almost purely on Ice Time, of each team’s first line centre and each team’s second line centre(s). I also disregarded guys who’ve played a limited number of games due to injury, so some guys who would be true #1 or #2 guys aren’t on here.

Head over the jump to see how Matt Stajan matches up with his peers.

That created a list of thirty-one 1st line centres (it’s impossible not to count both Malkin and Crosby), and thirty-six 2nd line centres. Both of these lists included Matt Stajan in the total count.

Here are who I determined to be the first line centres, listed alphabetically:

Andy McDonald, Anze Kopitar, Brad Richards, Brandon Dubinsky, David Legwand, Derek Roy, Eric Staal, Evgeni Malkin, Henrik Sedin, Jason Spezza, Joe Thornton, John Tavares, Jonathan Toews, Marc Savard, Martin Hanzal, Matt Stajan, Mike Richards, Mikko Koivu, Nicklas Backstrom, Olli Jokinen, Paul Stastny, Pavel Datsyuk, R.J. Umberger, Rich Peverley, Ryan Getzlaf, Scott Gomez, Shawn Horcoff, Sidney Crosby, Stephen Weiss, Travis Zajac, Vincent Lecavalier

According to Behind The Net’s 5v5 statistics Stajan ranked:

24th in TOI/60
16th in Rating
24th in QUALCOMP
15th in QUALTEAM
12th in GOALS/60
10th in ASST1/60
25th in ASST2/60
13th in PTS/60
9th in GFON
8th in GAON
11th in GFON/60
9th in GAON/60
14th in +/-ON/60

So, in an entirely unscientific assumption, I’m going to state that centres who can rank 16th or better in 2/3rds of the following offensive categories - RATING, GOALS/60, ASST1/60, ASST2/60, PTS/60, GFON, GFON/60 - are the guys who can at carry the load of a first line centre. I’m using top sixteen because sixteen teams make the playoffs, and I’m rounding up from the halfway point of 31 centres.

For the record, Stajan ranks top 16 in six of the seven categories I listed above – and he’s doing it with less 5v5 ice time then 23 other first line centres.

Now, there are some apparent negatives that need to be addressed – specifically his GAON and GAON/60.

For the record, Stajan has been on for 25 goals for vs. 21 goals against, and has an average of 3.41 goals for per 60 minutes vs. 2.86 goals against per 60 minutes – meaning in any scenario he is a "plus" player, and his +/-ON/60 is good for 14th out of this group.

Further showing that his GFOFF and GFOFF/60 numbers are somewhat irrelevant is the fact that the Leafs, as a team, are a "minus" in the +/-OFF/60 category – meaning the team scores fewer goals then it allows when Stajan is off the ice. In the interest of fairness it’s worth noting that the Leafs allow fewer goals per 60 with Stajan off the ice, but their goals for drops by just over 1.1 goals per 60, which creates the minus.

So, yes, more goals are scored against him then the average (compared to 30 other first line forwards) – but his ability to put up points negates that fact to a greater extent then it first appears.

So, is Stajan a first line centre? The above, to me at least, says yes. Is he a first line centre on playoff team? The above to me says yes again. Is he a first line centre on a cup contender? Well, he’s never really had the chance, has he?

So, if Stajan is a middle of the pack first line centre, how does he fair as a second line centre?

Here are the 36 centres I determined to be the league’s second line centres (listed non-alphabetically):

Tomas Plekanec, T.J. Oshie, Steven Stamkos, Steven Reinprecht, Samuel Pahlsson, Sam Ganger, Saku Koivu, Ryan Kesler, Patrice Bergeron, Mikhail Grabovski, Mike Ribeiro, Mike Fisher, Michal Handzus, Matt Stajan, Matthew Lombardi, Matt Duchene, Matt Cullen, Kyle Brodziak, Jordan Staal, Joe Pavelski, Jeff Carter, Jason Arnott, Jarret Stoll, Eric Belanger, Doug Weight, Derek Roy, Daymond Langkow, David Krejci, Dave Bolland, Darren Helm, Daniel Briere, Chris Drury, Bryan Little, Brooks Laich, Brian Rolston, Brendan Morrisson

According to Behind The Net’s 5v5 statistics Stajan ranked:

4th in TOI/60
11th in Rating
20th in QUALCOMP
13th in QUALTEAM
12th in GOALS/60
6th in ASST1/60
28th in ASST2/60
10th in PTS/60
Tied for 2nd in GFON (Only Micky Grabs is ahead)
4th in GAON
3rd in GFON/60
10th on GAON/60
14th in +/-ON/60

So, his TOI/60 goes way up, and he generally improves in every category.

Some things to note, as this isn’t really an apples to apples comparison.

Firstly, the list of second line guys has 36 centres vs. the 31 first line players, so when Stajan goes from 13th to 10th in PTS/60 he’s actually ahead of 26 guys instead of 18. Just felt like that was important.

Secondly, from my entirely unscientific observation Stajan has played a large portion of his 5v5 minutes against the opposition’s first line guys – and I’m not sure that the other guys on this list are doing that. I’m not saying they aren’t, but in all honesty, I really don’t know.

Thirdly, he’s producing his points with Phil Kessel, and he probably wouldn’t be playing in a second line role with a guy like Kessel riding shotgun. That’s not to say he wouldn’t have some talent with him, but he wouldn’t necessarily have a talent like Kessel, so his numbers could possibly be inflated compared to second line guys.

Anyhow, that’s how Stajan stacks up against what I consider to be the leagues best.

I have a spreadsheet I’ve made that’s tracked all of the stats I’ve quoted, so if anyone wants it shoot me an email. is a fan community that allows members to post their own thoughts and opinions on the Toronto Maple Leafs and hockey in general. These views and thoughts may not be shared by the editor of