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Behind the Numbers: Paul Stastny's Rocky Start

James CriderCorrespondent INovember 7, 2009

DENVER - OCTOBER 23:  Paul Stastny #26 of the Colorado Avalanche skates against the Carolina Hurricanes during NHL action at the Pepsi Center on October 23, 2009 in Denver, Colorado. The Avlanche defeated the Hurricanes 5-4.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

If you've watched him play at home, you probably think he's a shoe-in for the Hart Trophy. If you've watching him play on the road, you're probably calling for whoever decided to pay him $6.6 million dollars to be shot.

Paul Stastny's 2009-2010 campaign is off to a puzzling start.

On Pepsi Center ice, he's been brilliant: four goals, 11 points, and a plus-4 rating in only six games played. Subsequently, the Avalanche are a perfect 6-0-0 at home.

Things haven't come so easily on the road.

Though the Avalanche have been largely successful away from home, going 6-3-2, Stastny has not; he has no goals and five assists in the 11 game span.

Production from players like Tucker, Jones, and Galiardi largely covered the lack of production from Stastny, but that can't continue to happen. If your star player isn't showing up on the road, you're going to start losing alot of games.

Let's be fair here: Paul Stastny is the Avalanche's best player and he's only 23 years old. Even when he's not scoring, his defensive zone play makes him an asset to have on the ice in any situation.

But his production hasn't been the same in the last two years as it was in the first two. Before, Stastny could be counted on to be an offensive factor every night; even if he didn't make it onto the score sheet, he'd set up some good chances.

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Since the end of last year, he hasn't had that same offensive presence on the road. He's looked flat and largely invisible in the offensive zone, but like I said has been solid in his own end.

There's a question we must ask ourselves: is Paul Stastny is worth his five year, $33 million dollar contract? 

The contract Stastny signed was supposed to mirror the contract of Los Angeles Kings center Anze Kopitar, who makes an annual average salary of $6.8 million dollars.

However, Kopitar is two years younger, and is currently leading the NHL in points with 26 and he's second in goals with 13. Other players who make a salary similar to Stastny's are Pavel Datsyuk (Detroit, 6.7 million), Patrick Elias (New Jersey Devils, 6.0 million), and the Sedin twins (Vancouver, 6.1 million each).

It's really easy to find the flaws in a player's game when things aren't going so well; just look at the attitude towards Darcy Tucker last year versus this year. But that doesn't change a very valid question.

There are a plethora of players better than Stastny signed long term who make less money annually (Ryan Getzlaf, Correy Perry, and Mike Richards, to name a few), but there are just as many less skilled players with more bloated contracts than Stastny's (anyone the New York Rangers have signed the last three offseasons).

My answer? He doesn't deserve to make $6.6 million annually, but I would rather have him at that price than not have him at all.

He's a great player, and if Avalanche brass can surround him with other quality players, he'll reward them with a Stanley Cup some day.

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