Matt Stajan is on his way back to Calgary. The WHL’s Calgary Hitmen have announced that Stajan will serve as an assistant coach this season, starting the next chapter in his hockey career after retiring as a player two years ago. He is replacing former assistant Joel Otto, who is dealing with a hip injury and can no longer provide on-ice instruction. Hitmen GM Jeff Chynoweth released a statement on the hire:
We are so pleased to be able to add a well-respected former player such as Matt Stajan to our coaching staff; his NHL playing experience is innumerable and will be a great asset to our club. At the same time, we want to thank Joel for his many years of service with the Hitmen.
After spending the early part of his career with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Stajan played nine seasons with the Calgary Flames, reaching the 1,000 games played mark for his career in 2017-18. He spent one last year playing overseas, where he racked up 33 points in 52 games for EHC Munchen, but then announced his retirement in 2019.
An extremely well-respected teammate during his playing days, Stajan hit a career-high of 19 goals and 57 points in the 2009-10 season but carved out a role as a valuable two-way center for nearly a decade afterward. Now 37, he’ll start a coaching career that always seemed likely, given the way he carried himself during his days on the ice in the NHL. It is important to note that the Hitmen are actually owned by the same group as the Flames, and have been a proving ground for future Flames coaches in the past. Dave Lowry, for instance, worked his way up from assistant, to associate, to head coach of the Hitmen before making the jump back to the Flames bench in 2009. There’s obviously no guarantee that Stajan will follow the same path, but it certainly seems possible.