One of the things I noticed during the Draft over the weekend was the buzz surrounding the future of Matt Duchene with the Avalanche. Not just that he's probably going to become a top player really quickly, but that's he's going to be the next "face of the franchise" and the heir apparent to Super Joe's captaincy:
Avalanche fans, get to know this kid really well because he is now the heir apparent to the captaincy of the franchise.
And from what nearly every draft observer has said the Avs now have a crown jewel from which to build around.
Whatever happened to Paul Stastny?
Honestly, the complete lack of Stastny mentions in nearly everything I've read about the Avalanche picking Duchene in the draft is pretty startling. Stastny was touted as THE next top center for the Avs ever since he set foot on the ice for the first time in 2006-07 and finished second in the Calder voting. But despite his impressive sophomore showing of 71 points in 66 games, that shortened season and last year's disappointing (and underachieving), injury-shortened performance seems to have vastly diminished the Stastny buzz.
Enter Duchene, the highest pick for the Avalanche franchise since they were the Quebec Nordiques. His combination of offensive and defensive skills, his superb skating, and his affable, out-going personality (along with his sure-thing scouting reports) have made him the only center on anyone's radar. And with Joe Sakic either retiring this summer or next, the talk of Duchene as the next Avalanche leader is almost constant:
But whether Sakic decides to go one more round on the Zamboni shouldn’t matter, because Duchene will eventually become the face of this franchise.
(Only non-hockey writers would write something as cringe-worthy as "go one more round on the Zamboni". Ugh.)
What seems to be forgotten is that Paul Stastny has already established himself as a superb two-way center, with skills at both ends of the ice. While his style of play (and his skating) are less flashy and more based on sound positioning rather than uncanny agility and super speed, he's still one of the best centers in the NHL right now. Unfortunately, he's injury-prone, or appears to be. And also working against him is his quiet, kid-like demeanor (not to mention his goofy toothless grin and his old-school wooden stick). Duchene seems more media-friendly from the get-go, while Stastny still looks (and talks) like somebody's kid brother (or a famous player's son) than a mature team leader. Is that Stastny's fault? Not a chance. But it definitely doesn't help create that all-so-important media buzz that puts butts in seats and sells season tickets.
No doubt about it, if Duchene doesn't flame out and Stastny can stay healthy, the Avs will have a one-two punch of two-way centers to build some serious success around in the coming years. The Sakic/Forsberg era that brought two Stanley Cups and a ton of division titles is over, but the Duchene/Stastny era has just begun. We hope.