Matt Duchene Explains the Colorado Avalanche Season


“At this point, I want to play my whole career here in Colorado.” ~Matt Duchene

Everybody wants to know what happened to the Colorado Avalanche’s 2014-15 season. We all had such high hopes for the Avs New Age after that magical 2013-14 season when the Avalanche made the playoff for the first time in four years.

Well, Avalanche center Matt Duchene has some ideas about why the Avalanche didn’t make the playoffs after that magical season. Duchene spoke with Dean Blundell and company on Sportsnet 590 The Fan on Tuesday.

First of all, Duchene acknowledges how magical that 2013-14 season was:

"“You almost play on a high the whole season. Everything went right.”"

Matt Duchene credits the introduction of head coach Patrick Roy to the mix. Indeed, it’s been said the players performed even beyond their abilities for coach Roy that year, that the team played above their level. That’s heart, playing for a Hall of Famer and hero to the team.

That said, Duchene also credits a lot of puck luck:

"“We would pull our goalie with three minutes left, we would score every time. This year, it was the total opposite. Whatever we did… we could play better at times than we did last year, and we’d lose by a goal when last year we’d win by four.”"

I can only remember one game in the golden 2013-14 season in which the Avalanche lost a game they deserved to win — a 2-0 loss to the Boston Bruins at home. That’s also the game in which coach Roy pulled the goalie with a ridiculous six minutes left in regulation. The Bruins were just a relentless force that year. (This year, like the Avs, they failed to make the playoffs.)

This season, the Avalanche worked so hard in so many games. Yes, there were times when they took entire periods off. However, not all the losses went that way. As Matt Duchene points out, the Avalanche lost so many one-goal games — they were involved in so many one-goal games.  (We’ll break those games down in another post.)

Matt Duchene, like so many others, points to the Avalanche’s terrible start to the year, comparing it to the previous season:

"“We had an amazing start the year before. We started 13-1 that year. You got 13-1 in the NHL today to start, and you can cruise at 500 to make the playoffs because you’re going to get your points.”"

Matt Duchene, ever analytical, did some math at that point:

"“99 points was eighth place this year. We were looking back at it, and I think we were 10 games over 500 at the 25-game mark. You can’t blow 25 games in this league anymore. You can’t be under 500 by five, six games. It took us until Christmas to get to 500.”"

He points out that a team can’t put themselves “behind the eight ball” like that and still make the playoffs.

There was a lot of speculation about why the Avalanche started out so poorly this season. We started getting worried already in the preseason, when they won just one game. The players tried to whistle in the dark — captain Gabriel Landeskog acknowledged that they couldn’t flip a switch, but the players knew the difference between the preseason and regular season.

Then the Avalanche lost two ugly games to burgeoning rivals, the Minnesota Wild. Not only did they lose, they couldn’t score a single goal in two games. That kind of failure, coupled with that terrible preseason, is bound to get in your head.

Indeed, different players such as centers Ryan O’Reilly and Nathan MacKinnon as well as Landeskog and Duchene himself have admitted that they didn’t even want the puck at that point, that they were just so nervous about screwing up. It’s called choking, and it’s a renowned phenomenon that has afflicted more experienced athletes than that trio of under-25s.

That said, Matt Duchene is certainly upbeat about what the players can take from that experience. First of all, he’s been watching some of the Conference Finals, and he definitely wishes he were out there:

"“When I watch it… I watched the [Game 5, Ducks vs Blackhawks] overtime last night, as short as it was…It’s crazy, it was nuts. But watching that, you wish you were out there. You want to be in those big games. You can just feel the excitement. It sucks not to be there.”"

They’re going to take that feeling into the next season:

"“I think we learned so much. Sometimes you’ve got to take a step back before you take a step forward. I think that’s going to be the case with our team.”"

On a side note, when asked which of his good buddies, Pittsburgh Penguins star Sidney Crosby or teammate Nathan MacKinnon he’d rather see winning Stanley Cups, Duchene laughed and picked his teammate:

"“Nate can take me along for the ride.”"

Matt Duchene is fresh off his IIHF Worlds victory in which he won gold with Team Canada. Coupled with his gold medal from last years Olympic Games, Matt Duchene only needs a Stanley Cup to enter the exclusive Triple Gold Club — and obviously he’d like to do it with the Colorado Avalanche.

Next: Avs Lost Season: Significance of Early Losses

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