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Studying Stastny

What do you expect from #26 in 2013-2014?

Doug Pensinger

Now that the silly draft is over and the Avalanche have their prize pony, let's get back to basics around here: Paul Stastny is overrated, over paid and disappears in the big games. Trade him.

These critiques and worse have been tossed around for the past few seasons about the son of former Quebec Nordiques star Peter Stastny. It's hard to argue those sentiments as the Avs' highest paid player has seen his point production decline severely over the past 3 seasons, leading to the ugly cycle of constant trade rumors. But Stastny's recent dominance at the World Championships, where he also served as Captain for team USA, elicits the age-old response: "What the fuck bro?"

After putting up the worst ppg of his career in 2012-2013 with just 9 goals and 15 assists for 24 points in 40 games, Stastny exploded for 15 points in 10 games while leading the unheralded Americans to a Bronze Medal, their first medal since 2004. Stastny finished second place in scoring in the entire tournament. Was it the bigger ice? Maybe. Paul had 9 points in 8 games at his previous World Championships so maybe extra room begets extra points. Was it better linemates? Debatable, but Craig Smith, David Moss, or Ryan Carter aren't light years ahead of Milan Hejduk or David Jones (well maybe Jones). Was it a coaching change? No, Sacco coached Team USA and thought enough of SoS to name him Captain.

I thought we had terrific leadership on this team, and our captain, Paul Stastny, was such a key factor both on and off the ice. ~ Joe Sacco

So what gives? What changed? Why the enormous disparity in production and results? Who is the real Paul Stastny? Will we ever know?

Let's do a quick sprint down memory lane:

In 2006 Stastny broke into the league with a record-setting 20 game points streak for a rookie, in a season when he was not expected to make the roster. The shocking discovery Steve Konowalchuk's heart problems opened the door for Stastny and he would surprise everyone by putting up 78 points in 82 games as a rookie. The next season Stastny faced the challenge of big expectations and the dreaded sophomore slump, but he thrived while playing at (for the only time in his career) above a point per game pace, finishing with 71 points in 66 games and leading the team in scoring.

Based off two shockingly impressive seasons Stastny was offered a huge contract, a contract that would later be a factor for much of his criticism. Injuries slowed him down in year three, but he came back in his 4th season with a career best 79 points (leading his team once again) while also centering Silver Medal winning Team USA's top line in the Olympics. But here is where things take a turn for #26. After playing at .96 points per game in his first four seasons, Stastny has managed a mere .69 points per game since. Most players would love to put up points at that rate, but such a huge drop in production from a rising young star has left many fans dazed and confused (and certain MHHers downright grab-a-torch-and-burninate-the-countryside livid).

Other possible explanations for the decline of SoS:

- Stastny switched from a wooden stick to a graphite stick after his fourth season. Could it be a stick issue? Lack of wood?

- SoS has endured a couple coaching changes, but still put up decent numbers under Granato and during Sacco's first year as bench boss. And yes Stastny's decline did come under coach Sacco, but Sacco coached Stastny's dominant performance and the World Championships this spring so that seems moot. Although at the World's Stastny was the teams' undisputed leader and #1 center on a top line with quality wingers. He played an offensive role, not the 2nd or 3rd line role he's been playing for Sacco recently. So was Sacco simply misusing Stastny with the Avs by having him start shifts in the defensive zone and play with David Jones?

Stastny is an easy target of criticism from fans, and that's our right. Just like it's my right to have a man crush on Peter Forsberg or Sandie's right to Photoshop weird photos of what her and Daniel Winnik's baby would look like (kind of like a Middle Earth Elf with a five o'clock shadow and dreamy eyes - if anyone is curious). Sometimes Stastny deserves our ire, sometimes he's just a whipping boy, other times he could use a little more love. Whatever side of the fence you sit on, it's hard to admit that there isn't some frustration with the guy who just a few years ago was seemingly the heir apparent. Oh well. At least we got Tanguay back!

Questions for you readers:

- What do you think is the deal with Stastny?

- How would you utilize Stastny if you were boss of the Avs bench?

- Stastny Stats (or "Statsny"©) -