Matt Duchene will return to the Pepsi Center for the first time as a visitor when the Colorado Avalanche host the Ottawa Senators.
The Colorado Avalanche are going to put out a solid lineup against an Ottawa Senators team that’s not as bad as it should be — #9 out of 16 in the Eastern Conference and #18 out of 31 in the NHL.
Those aren’t stellar standings, but they’re a lot better than you’d expect from a team after the explosion that happened this summer. And better than we in Avs Nation might be hoping for considering the Avalanche hold the Senators’ first-round draft pick.
And that’s the reason that the meeting of these two teams in a hockey sense is a storyline that very much takes a back seat. The reason we have that first-rounder is the Matt Duchene trade. And tomorrow’s game will mark the first time Duchene returns to the Pepsi Center since the trade.
Matt Duchene and the Colorado Avalanche
The beginning and the end of Duchene’s career as an Avalanche will always be a part of our lore. Dutchy became an instant hit on draft day because he fist-pumped when it became apparent that his childhood dream team was going to draft him:
Duchene became a thorn in some fans’ sides because he asked to be traded then talked in his first Ottawa interview about wanting to play playoff hockey.
Here’s video of Matt leaving the only team he’d ever known in the middle of a game in the most awkward way to trade a player imaginable:
We’re all Kyle Keefe reflected in the glass, feeling forlorn and confused.
Or I was anyway. Duchene will always one of my favorite ever Avalanche players. Indeed, I started my career here on MHS writing about Dutchy:
You’ll be shocked and amazed to discover my second-ever post for this site was about Patrick Roy.
I wrote a lot about Duchene over the years until the trade — and infamously called the return seven lottery tickets (to be fair, only one is a proven winner so far, but, yeah, I’m eating crow). I wrote too much Dutchy goodness to share even a fraction of it here. However, the trade was so inevitable that I ranked my favorite Duchene moments:
Matt Duchene was the first-ever player I watched “grow up” from the time he was drafted until the end, in this case the trade. And I’m going to Pepsi Center tomorrow night armed with a bright yellow sign welcoming him back — because I’m pretty sure he’ll get booed.
Matt Duchene’s Reception
I understand why Avs fans are salty about Duchene’s leaving. He asked for a trade. He seemed to thumb his nose at the team when he declared he was happy to be with the Sens so he could play playoff hockey. Hello mouth, meet foot.
But that was also classic Matt Duchene, part of what we loved about him — his passion and intensity. And asking for the trade? The team had been shopping him — publicly shopping him — for a full year prior to his request.
Anyway, our “friendly” rivals over at Mile High Hockey expressed why we shouldn’t boo Duchene and should, in fact, give him a warm reception. It boils down to the fact that Matt contributed a lot in his eight years with the Colorado Avalanche. He was top-three in points every year but two and led the team in points five of those years.
What’s more, for all people call him a “locker room cancer,” Duchene was a player who would take it upon himself to mentor younger players. He reached out to MacKinnon when Nate first came to the team. He was working with Alexander Kerfoot even as he was sitting waiting to get traded from the team. And I firmly believe he would have taken on Tyson Jost long before now.
All that aside, the Colorado Avalanche also got a literal haul in the trade for him, and certainly the absolute sh*tstorm that was the Ottawa Senators last year is punishment enough for an off-handed remark about making the playoffs.
And Matt Duchene is part of Colorado Avalanche lore the same way Patrick Roy is. You shouldn’t try to whitewash your history and only keep the good bits. Duchene fist pumped. Duchene got traded. In between are several pages of our history.
So, I know Duchene will get booed. I’ll have my sign. There will be cheers besides mine. I hope more of you will see the big picture — and the chance to be the bigger person — and join my side more than the side of pettiness.