Much Ado About Matt Duchene

“I wanted to play playoff hockey.  I’ve got eight playoff games to my name right now and that’s not where I want to be at this point of my career. I only get one shot at this. I get to play this game for however long my body lets me play it and I felt I wanted to let Joe know it was time to move on.” – Matt Duchene last season

 

Everyone knows how the 2017-18 season turned out for the Ottawa Senators.  Not many teams could compete with the Montreal Canadiens in terms of taking a team that was making some noise not too long beforehand and turning the team into a scene that would make Jason Voorhees blush at the carnage.  One team not only competed there but somehow found a way to continue to make things worse: The Ottawa Senators.

 

Meanwhile, the Colorado Avalanche are sitting pretty in a rare position: playoff window open and a likely lottery pick for the 2019 entry draft in their back pocket, courtesy of getting rid of Matt Duchene.  On top of that, how many teams can sell one of their biggest names during the season and still make the playoffs? The Colorado Avalanche did it.  The trade no one thought that they could win –considering the point that they were at– ended up going down as arguably their best in franchise history.

 

Okay, arguably the *second* best trade for the Avalanche in franchise history…
(Photo: ESPN)

 

Now with Matt Duchene on the move out of Ottawa sooner rather than later, some seem to believe that the Montreal Canadiens are or should be in on the sweepstakes and the people are beginning to get swept up in the excitement.  These are the same people that suggested not too long ago that the Habs would be well advised to remain patient, continue to get younger and use any time spent in the playoffs this spring as experience for the new kids to bank on down the road; sound thinking all around in this mildly expanded thought.

 

Only one city, only one fan base could be so all over the map in such a short time and get on a hype train within mere hours of any mention of a hypothetical acquisition.

 

What should cause any need to curb such enthusiasm? This is a chance to acquire that major center that has eluded La Belle Province this side of Vincent Damphousse, after all.  Just as that chance came about when the Habs found themselves winning the 3rd overall pick in last year’s entry draft, much the same way it came about when Max Pacioretty was shipped off to Sin City.  Jesperi Kotkaniemi (statistical comparable to a rookie Aleksander Barkov) and Nick Suzuki (one of the most lethal players in the Ontario Hockey League) are apparently cannon fodder by this thinking.

 

Matt Duchene made his NHL debut in the 2009-10 season, ending with point totals of 24-31-55.  Since then he has surpassed 55 points just five times, scored 30 goals once and eclipsed 60 points only twice.  He has been an NHL all star just twice (2011, 2016) and –as previously quoted– played a whopping total of 8 playoff games.  Perhaps never has a player’s name gotten so big while doing so little.  Perhaps such is why his trophy case of NHL awards remains bare to this day…

 

At the risk of sounding like the aforementioned accomplishments are something to sneeze at, the asking price for such a rental as Matt Duchene would be in the neighborhood of three assets: likely a first round pick, a young roster player and a prospect but if such a deal were to be a sign and trade, the cost goes up by at least one more asset or a significant upgrade on the existing assets, if not both.

 

What was all of that talk about Les Glorieux being wise to be patient again…?

 

The cupboards may be stocking up in Montreal once again but emptying a sizable portion of the supply under a year after amassing this much thus far for a guy that –as best as one can tell– is not guaranteed anything longer than a stay of approximately six or seven weeks and has failed thus far to carry a team as their number one center to any kind of promised land seems like exactly the kind of thing that Montreal management should likely avoid.

 

Yes, Matt Duchene does have 58 points in 50 games thus far this season (impressively doing so as he is playing on a team that wouldn’t make vomit for a buzzard) and continuing at this pace would give him his first full season of point per game status in his NHL career (closest was 70 in 71 five years ago) and a number of Habs are in the midst of career seasons themselves so the temptation to strike while the iron is hot may be more palpable than anyone would have thought just half a year ago but surrendering a first round pick at this stage of the game should be completely out of the question for the Canadiens in this equation.

 

This is not to say that every single prospect in the pool is untouchable.  This is not even to say that draft picks could not be moved around or shuffled about and this certainly is not to say that the Habs could not afford to shed a few bodies off of their roster.  All that is being said here is that if Marc Bergevin has been quick to balk at asking prices that were too rich in seasons where the Canadiens were in much more of a “win now” mode, he should be even more cautious now with any further purchase(s) he does make before the bell rings next week.

 

Yes, that recliner would look nice in this new Habs house but it may not have anywhere to sit if they were to rip up the floor and sell the boards in order to afford it.

 

Buyer beware.

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