Colorado Avalanche: Matt Duchene’s Midseason Grade

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Ever since the inception of the “Nine Line”, Colorado Avalanche forward Matt Duchene has been on a tear.

Since it’s the holiday break for all hockey right now, and we are nearing the midseason point, I will be releasing an article every day — until the Avs hit the ice again — which will grade the overall performance of certain players to this point, as well as some New Year’s resolutions.

On the docket for today’s microscope slide is Colorado Avalanche C/W Matt Duchene.

The Set Up!

As all Colorado Avalanche fans know, Matt Duchene started the season incredibly slow, slow enough for trade rumors to heat up around him, and even for some fans to call for his departure from Colorado.

The Colorado Avalanche were also playing poorly which only perpetuated the situation because Duchene is a big reason for this team’s success.

Want proof? In the first 11 games of the season (when Dutchy had 3 points and was a -8) the Colorado Avalanche went 3-7-1.

More From Mile High Sticking: Colorado Avalanche Hit the Christmas Break

In the 24 games since that point, the Colorado Avalanche are a respectable 14-10, and Matt Duchene has 25 points. He is also now only a -3 for the season, and two of those minuses are in the last two games.

It’s safe to say that as this team’s offense goes, so does their trend in the standings. As such, when Matt Duchene is playing at his best he is a very valuable forward amongst the fold, and when he’s at his worst it is very noticeable.

Matt Duchene at his Worst

I mentioned earlier that Matt Duchene had a rough start to the season, witness:

You really don’t need to watch it all because that’s hard to do. Anyway, the play I’m interested in is in the first ten seconds of the video.

Matt Duchene intercepts the puck at the red line and immediately throws it behind him without looking to see who might be there. He has plenty of time to hold the puck too with only a little pressure on his back from one man.

He could also consider playing the puck to one of his two defensemen. Instead he throws a lazy puck off the boards which is immediately picked up by a wild player for a three on two against perennial traffic cone, Nate Guenin, and Tyson Barrie. It was an easy goal, and an awful play by Duchene.

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In fact, Matt Duchene had a pretty rough go that night as he was on the ice for 4/5 Minnesota goals, and only 1 of the Colorado Avalanche. October was a pretty useless month in general actually, and he made a lot of silly plays like the one at the beginning of the video.

But then, Patrick Roy made a terrific decision when he put Matt Duchene on the wing with Nathan MacKinnon and Gabe Landeskog.

Matt Duchene at His Best

I don’t like to dwell too long on the negatives, especially since they didn’t last very long, and there’s so many glorious plays to look at, like this one:

That’s just a great goal, good hard work on the boards by Carl Soderberg to get the puck to Gabe Landeskog who then makes a nice pass to Matt Duchene, and he makes no mistake in burying it.

However, that’s just a clip that shows Duchene finishing hard work done by other Colorado Avalanche players. Let’s check out some good skating from Dutchy that earns him a nice goal:

Erik Johnson just lobs the puck to the middle of the ice, and Duchene comes up with it amongst three New Jersey Devils’ players and fires a beaut of shot passed goalie Corey Schneider.

So, we have the nice display of a sniped shot, a sniped shot with speedy skating, now let’s just see a whole bunch of goals:

If you’ll notice, Dutchy is scoring most of his goals from right in front of the net. He’s playing gritty for his snacks, and it’s working.

Most Avs fans probably are not used to seeing Duchene get goals like this, but sometimes there’s things you need to adjust to in this league, and Duchene is finding a home in front of the net.

Going to the front of the net is working really well for Duchene right now, and even though his month of December is slower than November to this point, he’s still providing the necessary jump this team needs.

Midseason Grade

I’m going to give him an optimistic B+ because of his slow start, and his recent dip in production. He has 2 points in the last 6 games, and has gone the past three without any.

It’s not much of a dip, I know, still the “Nine Line” has seen their production dwindle as of late, and Duchene will be a key to them getting started again.

Nonetheless, playing on the wing has really helped his game because now the defensive responsibilities for him have diminished to a large degree. Furthermore, this move to the wing will also be helpful for Nathan MacKinnon as he should become a good two-way player.

New Year’s Resolution

I’d like to see him get MacK going a little more on that line. Duchene is so quick in the corners, and great at drawing attention to himself, I’d like to see him try and set MacK up for a few more markers.

MacKinnon’s production has certainly dropped to a large degree recently, and I think he would benefit from a few nice passes with easy finishes, something Duchene is very capable of.

Also — and this is out of his control — I’d like to see him take more face-offs in key situations because MacKinnon is very inconsistent in the dot still. However, he won’t learn if Duchene takes the bulk of the face-offs, so I understand why Dutch doesn’t take as many.

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Finally, he needs to start getting back in front of the net for some dirty goals because he has 2 goals in the last 9 games when he had 6 goals in the 9 games before that.

Hockey is a streaky sport, and Duchene is a streaky player — somewhat notoriously — so I expect him to find twine with regularity again soon.

Anyway, that’s all she wrote folks. And, in case you didn’t read my post that set up this holiday-mid-season-grade-adventure, I will be featuring poems that you guys write at the end of every article. So post your hockey holiday poems in the comment sections, and I’ll select from the best.

Today’s poem goes to Mark T because he was the only one to post a poem in the comment section. Nonetheless, it’s a grand poem and I dare any of you to do better (because I could not).

Some points it did cost,
but I’m glad the Avs lost.
If pissed off at Christmas,
then feasts they’ll dismiss.
And perhaps for this reason,
They’ll be hungry all season.
Which is a ticket to post-holiday bliss

— Mark T

Next: Semyon Varlamov Gifts the Leafs With an Early Christmas Present

Tomorrow’s article will feature Jack Skille because I love the guy and I get to choose who to grade. So, stop by again tomorrow, and get those poem muscles working because I’m expecting some good rhymes in the comment section.

What do you think Avs fans? What Can Matt Duchene work on for his New Year’s resolution? What grade would you have given him? Let us know in the comment section, perhaps in the form of a poem.