Colorado Avalanche center Matt Duchene suffered his first concussion in November. His season was never the same.
No one is questioning that Colorado Avalanche center Matt Duchene had an off season. He scored just 18 goals and earned a total of 41 points in 77 games. That’s the second-worst points total and points-per-game total of his career, with the 2011-12 season being 28 points in 58 games.
Duchene has ever been a streaky scorer. He tends to go through scoring slumps. However, this season’s scoring slumps seemed epic. It was nothing to see Duchene go six games without a goal. He also suffered an 11-game drought when he didn’t get a single point.
Many explanations have been floated out for his especially streaky play last season. The most popular is that he’s “done” with this team and “open to” a fresh start. This provides the foundation of the trade rumors.
No one seems to be exploring the explanation that helped fuel his bad 2011-12 season — a lagging injury. Then it was an ankle injury. However, during the 2016-17 season, Matt Duchene sustained one of the scariest injuries in hockey — a concussion.
On November 11, 2016, Winnipeg Jets defenseman Jacob Trouba gave Matt Duchene the forearm shiver right in the head:
The result of the hit for Matt Duchene was a chipped tooth, loosened tooth, blurred vision and, of course, a concussion. The result for Trouba was… nothing. He didn’t receive a penalty on the play, not was he even considered for supplemental discipline.
At the time, Duchene was shocked Trouba didn’t receive any kind of disciplinary action:
"“I thought it was pretty vicious. I knew where [Trouba] was, and he kind of threw his arm out in desperation. I think it was an unfortunate reaction, but it caught me in the head, chipped a tooth, knocked a tooth loose as well, and obviously gave me a concussion. I obviously wasn’t too thrilled with that play.”"
Duchene sat out the rest of the game. He also sat out the next four games because of “concussion-like” symptoms. He returned to play on November 21 against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Matt Duchene’s Derailment
Matt Duchene came into the 2016-17 season pretty hot. He was coming off his first-ever 30-goal season. Prior to the Jets game, Duchene was also the Colorado Avalanche’s leading scorer with 11 points in 13 games.
Even though Duchene is a streaky scorer, that production could have put him back in the 30-goal and/or 70-point range. Instead, he earned just 30 more points in the next 64 games. That’s going from .846 points per game to .468. That put him at a total of 18 goals and 41 points.
Could this loss in performance have been explained by the concussion? It was Matt Duchene’s first in his career. Though he didn’t have to stay out too long, we all know how tricky concussion can be.
Players like captain Gabriel Landeskog have talked about not being able to be around flickering lights while recuperating from a concussion. Players such as Jesse Winchester have seen their careers ended from seemingly innocuous hits.
Right after returning from the concussion, Matt Duchene got a goal against the Blue Jackets. This was followed by a five-game goal-less streak, an up-and-down couple weeks, a six-game goal-less streak, and that eventual 11-game pointless streak.
There may be other factors that led to Duchene’s season being derailed. I don’t think Matt giving up is one of them. I’ve never been a fan of how the Avalanche’s medical personnel rehabilitate players, and we all know I’m happy to lay some blame on Jared Bednar’s coaching.
However, if Matt Duchene did suffer some lingering effects from his concussion, I hope his long offseason is allowing him to properly heal.