No one in Avs Nation is going to call Colorado Avalanche center Matt Duchene a bust. In fact, you’d be hard-pressed to find outsiders who would use that word in conjunction with Duchene.
However, there’s no question that Matt Duchene’s career hasn’t taken quite the trajectory we all expected when the Avalanche selected him third overall in the 2009 NHL draft.
Matt Duchene has ever been a streaky scorer. I think that’s true for a lot of forwards in the NHL, even the top-six sorts. However, Duchene often goes weeks without a goal.
In the lockout-shortened season, Matt Duchene went for six and seven game stretches without any goals. In his slumpiest season, 2011-2012, he had a 6-game scoreless streak, two seven-game scoreless streaks and a full 13-game scoreless streak. Of course, that’s also the year he got his first NHL hat trick.
In the fabled “Why Not Us” season, Duchene went eight games in November-December before he scored two against the Winnipeg Jets. He then went 13 whole games — almost four full weeks — before scoring the game-winner against the Nashville Predators.
Last season he had a 12-game scoreless streak.
Like I said, I don’t think this is unique to Matt Duchene. Even captain Gabriel Landeskog stated last season that goals tend to come in bunches for him. However, I think it’s interesting that these peaks and valleys in a season tend to mimic his overall career thus far.
Matt Duchene’s Career
This theme of peaks and valleys definitely holds true throughout Matt Duchene’s career.
He started out strong, as we all expected, with 24 goals and a total 55 points his rookie season. Interestingly, he definitely had no sophomore slump. In his second NHL season, Duchene earned the most goals he’s had to date — 27. He had a total 67 points in the 2010-11 season.
The following year is when the “slump” happened. Duchene played only 58 games, and he scored just 14 goals and earned a total 28 points. He later admitted he was playing with an ankle injury.
The next two seasons were definite redemption years for Duchene. He purposely signed a mediocre bridge contract so he could show his worth. Show it he did, earning almost a point a game both seasons.
Then last year happened. The 2014-15 season was the first in which Matt Duchene played all 82 games. Yet he earned just 55 points (21 goals, 34 assists). To be fair, no one on the Colorado Avalanche scored even 60 points, but I think Avs execs expected Matt Duchene to be the game — and season — changer on the team when they drafted him.
So, what can we expect from Matt Duchene this year?
I can tell you what we probably cannot expect — a plethora of ugly goals. Though Duchene finished second only to Gabriel Landeskog in number of shots, hardly any of his 21 goals from last year could be termed “ugly.” The majority of them came at the conclusion of a classic — and beautiful — Matt Duchene breakaway.
It’s almost as if Duchene is incapable of scoring ugly goals.
However, as I pointed out earlier, Matt Duchene’s peak year for goal production yielded just 27 goals. This league might be rare for seeing 50-goal scorers, but what about 40-goal scorers? At least a 30-goal scorer?
Is this going to be the year that Matt Duchene breaks that ceiling? As of right now, he’s slated to skate on a line with two veterans, Alex Tanguay and Jarome Iginla. Both are known puck handlers and play makers — and not too bad at finishing the play either. Yet both are getting a little long in the tooth.
I used an analogy earlier that I’m going to repeat. Imagine Tanguay and Iginla feeding Duchene scoring chances like candy to a toddler. Matt Duchene’s nothing if not a finisher.
I feel like this could be Matt Duchene’s year. Even if he suffers scoring slumps like he typically does, I think Duchene could score 30+ this season.
For luck, here’s a silly little slump buster video I made during the “Why Not Us” Season.
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