James O'Brien

Hockey Daily Dose

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Dose: Reign of Duchene

Thursday, November 7, 2013

This week’s Daily Dose installments started off unfortunately negative, though maybe all it took was Hump Day for things to turn around. Regardless, with all that doom and gloom, I thought I’d pivot to the more sublime: Matt Duchene’s possible jump from being a very good player to - maybe, just maybe - one of the best in the league.


There are many stories floating around about how the 22-year-old has changed things up this season.


It’s not just the media pumping out hypotheses, either. Duchene himself has raved about a gluten-free diet and a custom mattress making all the difference.


Here’s the thing, though: Duchene isn’t rebounding. Or if he is, it’s not something that happened in 2013-14; this is instead the sensational continuation of a dazzling climb among runs of scoring talents that was only really sidetracked in a bummer of a 2011-12 season (Just 28 points in 48 games, firing the same 132 SOG that he generated in 11 fewer games last season).


Really, if you take that once-troubling season out of the way, his progression to stardom seems steadier than it might seem to some who worried that he was devolving into a one-dimensional scorer.


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Maybe that 2011-12 season was good for Duchene in many ways. Perhaps it proved to him that it "all wouldn't come easy" or that he couldn't do it all by himself. Either way, if you take that dip out, it's pretty much all an upward slope:


2009-10: 24 goals, 55 points

2010-11: 27 goals, 67 points

2011-12: 14 goals, 28 points

2012-13: 17 goals, 43 points (over an 82 game-season, that would be: 29-30 goals, 74 points)

This season: 10 goals, 17 points for a 58-goal, 99-100 point pace




So, yes, to an extent Duchene is playing out of his mind. He has 50 shots on goal in 14 games, with a flat 20 percent shooting efficiency that’s very likely to slip a bit. For that reason, it’s almost inevitable that there will be some kind of “What’s wrong with Duchene?” or “Is that Gluten-free diet finally falling short for Colorado’s star?” type stories instead of simple explanation that he’s not getting as many bounces.


After seemingly being attached at the hip points-wise with P.A. Parenteau last season (both with 43 points), Duchene tops everyone on a surging Colorado team by six points. Maybe someone like Parenteau can prop Duchene up if he does slip a bit?


Hot streak or not, Duchene has genuinely been captivating to watch. It’s trivial to boil down Team Canada roster spots to one-on-one battles (at least among forwards), yet it really is getting tough to imagine a struggling star like Claude Giroux edging Duchene now.


Duchene’s downright explosive speed, dangerous shot and creativity is making Colorado a true delight to behold. In my opinion, it’s too early to try to assess where he ranks among the NHL’s elite - for all the bluster, he's only tied for 10th in scoring at 17 points with several other players - but it will be fun to see if he can keep this up.


It’s hard not to give Duchene “bonus points” for what seems like a knack for making every point he scores look absolutely amazing. His three-point night against Nashville was just an astounding evening.


With all those plaudits, you’d think Duchene’s team won on Wednesday, but that was not the case …




-- Despite many going into a Pekka panic, it's worth noting that the Nashville Predators have managed to get five out of a possible six points to begin a very tough road trip. It's true that I'm still not really sold on Carter Hutton's readiness, but his 4-1-1 record alone and sudden workload make it abundantly clear he's worth grabbing. Amazingly, he's only owned in 24 percent of Yahoo leagues, so there's a great chance you can snatch him.


-- Colin Wilson tied a career-high with four points (two goals, two assists) on Wednesday. That outburst broke a five-game pointless streak and represented just the second game in which he scored a goal or more (one tally on Oct. 8) this season.


-- Semyon Varlamov saw his three-game winning streak end. It seems like Colorado is standing by him, although it's worth noting that Jean-Sebastien Giguere presents stiff competition in the first place. He could very well lose ground for on-ice reasons, if that ends up happening.


-- Viktor Stalberg clearly benefited from a wide-open game for Nashville. He scored his first goal and assist of the season after going without a point in his first eight games. He also nearly doubled his SOG output by getting six last night, upping his skinny total to 13 in nine contests. Many were excited about his signing, yet it took until November to see why. Maybe he can keep this up?


-- Cory Sarich got an assist. In related news: Cory Sarich is still in the NHL.




-- Not a huge surprise that the Rangers are leveling things out. At this point, their biggest sin might be losing too often in regulation (7-8-0). Then again, the East's top three teams (Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay, Toronto) have goose eggs in that third category, too.


-- Ryan McDonagh is definitely heating up with four points (two goals, two assists) in his last five games. He's active, too, with eight SOG in his last two. He's an excellent defenseman whose talents don't totally translate to fantasy yet, although he did generate 32 points and a +25 rating in 2011-12.


-- Brad Richards continue to justify much of the optimism about his chances of bouncing back this season (12 points in 15 games played after Wednesday's duo of assists).


-- Nice to see things stabilizing for Henrik Lundqvist. He's only allowed three goals in his last three games.


-- Hard to complain about Marc-Andre Fleury, despite giving up five goals. As long as he doesn't find his confidence shaken a bit.




-- So, some vaguely Belushi-ish looking fan stole Adam Pardy's helmet while the woman next to him poured a beer on the players. Hey, we've had reasons to shower players, coaches and executives with disdain; why not throw fans in there? At least this is a case of being able to put a face to the poor decision-making. (Usually that kind of discouraging behavior can exist under the protection of anonymity.)


-- To rehash a joke from the two teams' last game, watching the Blackhawks vs. Jets is like a beloved sitcom going up against its poorly received and lowly rated spinoff. I'm not sure if the Jets are "Joey" bad, though.


-- Overall, Patrick Sharp's still has bad puck luck this season (just four goals on 65 SOG), but things are coming around. He has three goals and three assists in his last six games.


-- Corey Crawford is rewarding his believers handsomely, with a 4-0-1 record in his last five and a 9-2-3 mark overall. His .921 save percentage shows that it's not just a matter of his teammates being dominant. The 28-year-old probably deserves more respect, although maybe I'm contradicting myself immediately by expressing a feeling that he's still not quite proven enough to be "elite" just yet.


-- Still zero goals in 17 games (and 56 SOG) for Dustin Byfuglien, but at least he has 10 assists and 22 PIM. That -9 is troubling, though.




-- I'm still trumpeting Shane Doan's value, at least for a guy owned in just 37 percent of Yahoo leagues. He has five points (four goals, one assists and 21 SOG) in his last five games. Doan goes from good to very good in hits formats, as he already has 38 of those this season.


-- Is Cam Fowler getting it together? He has four points in as many games. Unfortunately, he went three games without a SOG until last night's trio of shots on net, so I'm not so sure I'd depend on him, especially since he won't be getting many PIM (44 in 211 career games).


-- Jonas Hiller's .908 save percentage is below expectations, but he's 7-2-1. Hard not to imagine him getting traded this season, but maybe he'll get lucky and land on a good team if that comes to pass? I still think he's a strong - if recently unlucky - netminder.


-- Dustin Penner has a four-game point streak going with a +7 rating in that time. Somewhat stunningly, he's a +15 in 10 games. I guess that comes with lining up alongside Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf? He's tempting for that very fact.


-- Mathieu Perreault continues to get middling ice time and continues to produce. His ninth assist of the season gives him 14 points in 16 games.


INJURIES (full list)


Pascal Dupuis left Wednesday’s game with an undisclosed injury. Keep an eye out for updates … Apply that same train of thought to Radim Vrbata, although an educated guess is that it was possibly a lower-body issue … Evander Kane missed his second straight game on Wednesday. Not good ... Nathan Horton began skating for the first time since offseason surgery. Keep an eye on his progress, as you could very well scoop up a nice scorer (who the Blue Jackets could really use ASAP) ... Will Elias Lindholm be back in Carolina at some point? He played 10 games, so that first ELC year is burned ... Teemu Selanne came back after getting his chippers rearranged on Wednesday. He didn't do much, but he did earn some toughness points ... Curtis Glencross' upper-body injury seems a little worrisome. At least right now ... It sounds like Craig Anderson won't play until at least next week. Again, Robin Lehner's a decent add if you don't mind tweaking your lineup a little more ... Keith Ballard is day-to-day with being Keith Ballard (pretty sure I made this joke once already this season, so maybe we'll make it a sad tradition) ... It's a little surprising that Brent Burns is still out of action. Hmm.

James O'Brien is the Hockey Daily Dose's author and has been a contributor to NBC's Pro Hockey Talk for more than four years. Follow him on Twitter.
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