Why the Colorado Avalanche should finally let Duchene go.
While it seems this Matt Duchene saga has been going on since January, the end may not yet be in sight. The fall of the Colorado Avalanche last year was something that was unpredictable. Not only did they finish last in the NHL after totaling only 48 points during the 2016-17 season, they did so with the third worst goal differential since the 2000-01 season. Granted, they did face a last-minute departure by coach and franchise legend Patrick Roy, but no one expected a season this bad.
While a somewhat similar situation like Travis Harmonic comes to mind, it took him two full seasons to finally be traded. There are many differences between the two players and the situations surrounding their move, but if the Avalanche are looking for a maximum return on Duchene, they should do it now.
Credit GM Joe Sakic for holding on to Duchene this long. It seems we’ve been seeing articles like this since the Avalanche’s demise last year. The former third overall pick is in his prime and has shown signs of greatness, earning Selke Trophy votes (best two-way forward) as well as an all-star selection along the way. Duchene also was selected to play for Canada during both the 2014 Winter Olympics and the 2017 World Cup of hockey
Yet to this point, Duchene has not been traded. This season’s episode of the saga has NHL legend Peter Forsberg telling the team to bench the center until he is traded, who, to add insult to injury, is a childhood hero of Duchene’s according to Team Canada’s website. Maybe we can cut him some slack after he showed up a little less than enthusiastic to media day.
Matt Duchene looks thrilled to still be on the Avs. pic.twitter.com/Py40Bve4Wg— Liam McGuire (@LiamRMcGuire) September 14, 2017
When it comes to his play on the ice so far this season, however, Duchene is making a case for another team in need of offense to come pay the price. He is currently tied with the team lead with seven points and second in plus-minus at +4 through the first eight games of the season, leading the team to a 4-4-0 record.
Beyond this, Duchene has been an even-strength advanced stats monster. The team is controlling over 58% of shots with him on the ice and he’s second on the team with a Relative Corsi For % of 9.5, meaning his team controls 9.5% more shots with him on the ice and are shooting at a 13.2% clip as well. He has won a team-high 58.8% of face-offs among players who have stepped in the circle at least 10 times, and leads the team with six takeaways.
Why This Is Especially Impressive
Lost in all of this is that he has, for a majority of the season, been playing on a line with Alexander Kerfoot and Nail Yakupov. Kerfoot, a former Hobey Baker finalist (best player in college hockey), is in his first year after signing with Colorado. Yakupov is best known for being the first pick in the 2012 draft and not living up to high expectations. He was traded to St. Louis last year before signing with Colorado. Known for his shooting, Yakupov has yet to put together more than the 17 goals he scored in his rookie year.
Needless to say, Duchene isn’t skating next to the most effective wingers, but is still putting up good numbers. Above all else, he is getting the most out of these two players, as their numbers for Relative Corsi For Percentage and shooting percentage are in the same neighborhood as Duchene’s.
Can Duchene Be A First Line Center Or Just A Complimentary Piece?
It is important to note that Duchene is technically the second line center behind Nathan MacKinnon, but we can still compare his numbers to top-line centers. Looking at centers who have averaged at least eight minutes of even-strength time on ice per game:
Duchene’s Corsi For Relative % is quite high, ranking ninth among centers. His face-off percentage is the highest of all players listed, and his team’s shot percentage comes in at third, behind only Auston Matthews and Mark Scheifele.
Not only does this put Duchene in elite company, it could be argued that each of these centers enjoy better support. We can see how some of these centers’ company stack up against the combo of Kerfoot-Duchene-Yakupov.
|Left Wing||Center||Right Wing|
|Patrick Maroon||Conor McDavid||Kailer Yamomoto|
|Vladislav Namestnikov||Steven Stamkos||Nikita Kucherov|
|Daniel Sedin||Henrik Sedin||Jake Virtanen|
|Zach Hyman||Auston Matthews||William Nylander|
|Jamie Benn||Tyler Seguin||Alexander Radulov|
|Tom Wilson||Nicklas Backstrom||T.J. Oshie|
Lines current as of 8/20/17 courtesy of Left Wing Lock
While Kerfoot is still a rookie, Yakupov clearly does not stack up to most of the wingers on this list. It could be interesting to see if Duchene’s stats could improve to an even higher level with a change of scenery and some added support on the wings.
Why Duchene Should Keep Pushing For A Trade
At the end of the day, no player in the NHL is playing without a contract. Duchene is currently signed for another two years at an average annual value of $6 million per season. By showcasing his talent on a winning squad, it is not hard to see him garnering a contract similar to Scheifele or Ryan Johansen come the end of the 2018-2019 season. The contract current Ottawa Senators forward Kyle Turris receives at season’s end, which many are speculating could come from a different club due to the internal cap situation in Ottawa, will be an interesting measuring stick for Duchene’s next deal.
The Avalanche are in a better spot to trade him now, as any team that takes a flyer on the forward will be guaranteed at least one full year beyond the end of this season. Regardless of the move, it will be interesting to see If Duchene can sustain his high level, whether in Colorado or on another club.
Edited by Jeremy Losak.
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