Matt Duchene: What Does He Need to Succeed?


The Colorado Avalanche have been scoring goals in their first two games of the season, but one player who is still off the scoresheet is center Matt Duchene. Hopefully that will change tonight. This lack of scoring is certainly not due to a lack of talent in Matt Duchene, but may be an aspect of Duchene’s wingers. Let’s go into a bit of discussion about what might be best suited for Dutchy’s success.

First of all, there have only been two games so far this season, so these two games are by no means a marker of what we can expect from Matt Duchene this year. He will without a doubt find his scoring touch, but to what degree and consistency is yet to be seen.

So, there must be some things that Avalanche management can do to ensure that Matt Duchene finds his scoring touch in an elite fashion.

Matt Duchene’s Line

So far, Matt Duchene has been centering Blake Comeau and Jarome Iginla on the “first-line”. However, during Sunday night’s game, Mikko Rantanen was moved to his wing for a short period of time. This not only seemed to put some jump in Rantanen’s step, but also culminated in more scoring chances for the first line. Regardless of whether or not Rantanen sticks on the top line, it’s evident that something needs to be done about Duchene’s line in order to increase scoring opportunities.

On Saturday night Nathan MacKinnon’s line did all the work essentially, with the 4th line chipping in a goal, and Iginla and Erik Johnson potting goals on the powerplay. The third line was non-existent again, and Duchene’s line struggled mightily. This is evidenced by the increased minutes for MacKinnon’s line (Duchene had 16:09 TOI, while MacKinnon had 18:55 TOI during Saturday night’s win).

So, it’s evident that MacKinnon’s line is outplaying Duchene’s at this point. The Colorado Avalanche cannot depend on one line to do all the scoring this season, so something must be done to ensure that the Avalanche get all 4 lines rolling. But, the integrity of the second-line must be kept together as well because Avalanche management does not want to jeopardize losing that production.

Possible Solutions to the Matt Duchene Problem

I’m only calling this the Matt Duchene problem because he has yet to score, and I’m sure he’s not digging that any more than Avs fans. However, it’s really the problem of how do we get our third-line and first-line to produce at the level of our second and fourth lines?

Ok, so it’s obvious that management does not want to break up MacKinnon and Gabe Landeskog because they showed chemistry throughout last season, and it’s continued this season. But, anyone remember who’s assisted on both of Iginla’s goals this year so far?  MacKinnon has had a hand in both of Iginla’s goals, and Landeskog got the primary assist in Saturday night’s game when Iginla got his power play goal.

Additionally, Alex Tanguay has only played a role in two goals between him, MacKinnon, and Landeskog. Tanguay earned an assist on Landy’s goal and another on MacK’s during Saturday night’s game.

So, here’s my solution. Move Tanguay to the first-line with Matt Duchene, and drop Iginla down to the second-line with MacKinnon and Landeskog. In fact, you make the Landeskog – MacKinnon – Iginla line your first line that pairs against the opponent’s top line with Francois Beauchemin and Erik Johnson, night in and night out.

Think about it. Gabe Landeskog is a power-forward, Jarome Iginla is a power-forward, and Nathan MacKinnon is on his way to becoming an elite two-way center. All 3 of them are above 6 foot, and over 200 pounds.

Related: Which Matt Duchene Will We See This Year?

Then, you give Duchene’s line some room to roam. The rookie, Mikko Rantanen, has time to progress under the tutelage of an elite center, and Alex Tanguay provides a veteran presence with perhaps the softest hands in the game right now (He must use a lot of lotion).

Finally, Blake Comeau moves to the third line where he’ll provide Carl Soderberg (another player who has looked out of place so far this season) with some confidence. I still don’t know what to do with Rendulic, but I see Mikhail Grigorenko providing that remedy sooner rather than later.

Here’s what’s important. Patrick Roy will not be changing his fourth-line at all, which has been — hands-down — the most welcome surprise of this season so far. Furthermore, the second-line is barely altered; Iginla hasn’t been getting goals from Dutchy anyway, and Tanguay is not the main ingredient to the spicy success of the second-line so far.

Finally, the third line gets some experience added to it in the form of Blake Comeau (who is better suited to a third-line scoring role anyway). Carl Soderberg is no longer forced to deal with inexperienced wingers, and he gets a chance to show why the Avalanche brass were so adamant about finding an adequate replacement for Ryan O’Reilly.

What’s the Direction Anyhow?

The whole point of this article is figuring out how to get Matt Duchene going because it just can’t be done with Comeau on his wing. Plus, there is reason to believe that Iginla would be better suited to MacKinnon’s wing with Landeskog. Furthermore, if Avalanche management are really trying to figure out whether or not Rantanen can contribute, then there is no better way to do it. This only comes in the form of MacKinnon’s line taking on the opponent’s top-line though.

Rantanen still needs to be sheltered, but he isn’t finding his game on the third-line. And Dutchy isn’t finding goals and assists with Comeau on the first line either. So, if Duchene’s line moves to second-line duties, it will give Rantanen more sheltered minutes, but also provide him with the opportunity to prove whether or not he is suited for the role he is ultimately meant to take over.

Furthermore, Alex Tanguay and Matt Duchene are playmakers, and I’m inclined to think that Mikko Rantanen is a goal-scorer. What better way to find that touch at a young age in the NHL than have some of the best playmakers in the league setting you up?

More from Avalanche News

Ultimately, I don’t think it’s likely that the Avalanche brass will makes these line changes because they are probably a little squeamish in breaking apart the success of MacKinnon’s line. However, how much of a role has Tanguay really played in that success? Also, who’s to say that Iginla would hinder that success?

Colorado Avalanche fans are not accustomed to seeing Matt Duchene struggle (apart from last season where the chemistry with his wingers was also shaky at best). In order to remedy this development, Patrick Roy might have to make some changes. Also, lets not forget that there have been two lines so far that have produced this season. If Patrick Roy is really seeking a balanced lineup, then he needs to consider changes.

Hopefully — regardless of changes — we’ll see a different Matt Duchene tonight, and all these questions will disintegrate into the realm of uselessness, at least for the time being. Here’s to a good game for Dutchy tonight!

What do you think Avs fans? Are there better line combinations to consider? Is there a bigger issue affecting Duchene’s performance at this point, or will better wingers change his fortune? Let us know in the comments!

Next: Should Matt Duchene and Nathan MacKinnon Keep it Fancy?

More from Mile High Sticking