Matt Stajan stood in the uncomfortable glare of the television lights for an excruciating seven minutes and 26 seconds on locker cleanout day for the Calgary Flames.

Give the struggling pivot credit for not slinking out a back door to hide from the assembled press corps, given the central question that awaited him. Namely, how can a player pulling down a $3.5-million annual salary muster just six goals and 31 points in 75 games?

"I'm not here to make any excuses," Stajan said. "I just didn't play well consistently. I wanted to put up some more goals and contribute a lot more. It's not that I didn't try and I wasn't working hard. It just never seemed to come together at any point."

It certainly didn't. Stajan played some stretches this season on the first line with Alex Tanguay and Jarome Iginla, but he couldn't make the promotion stick. By the end of the season, he crash-landed on the fourth line between rookies Lance Bouma and Greg Nemisz.

Keep in mind: opportunity beckoned with centres Brendan Morrison (knee) and David Moss (ankle) out of the lineup. But Stajan, by that point, couldn't take advantage of the situation no matter how hard he tried.

"There will probably a lot of bad rap about me this summer," he said. ''I'll take a lot of heat. I'll just come back next year and try to prove all that wrong — that this past season was just a blip and not something that's going to keep on happening.

"I am a better player than I showed this year, that's for sure."

Ales Kotalik called himself a broken player upon arrival in Calgary last season from the New York Rangers. Stajan stopped short of such a drastic description Monday as the Flames bid farewell to one another for the summer.