Mired in a regress-o-rama, The Colorado Avalanche need to find their way quickly, as they're nearly a quarter of the way into the season. With 19 games gone, the Avs are behind the eight ball as Minnesota and Winnipeg stand, each team also having games in hand.
The Avalanche are hardly counted out of the playoff race, as the world class center on the Av's top line gives critics pause. Matt Duchene continually wills the Avs into possession time, goals, and wins, in a similar fashion to the league's elite. What's more, his mental readjustment over the past three seasons has left him a leader in the locker room.
Duchene has been a warrior from day one with The Avs. He has played on what turned out to be a broken ankle, he has fought through depression, and he has faced criticism from the media. Yet Duchene has adapted, not only to physical and mental pressures, but to on ice struggles as well. He has lead the team in points since the lockout, despite rotating wingers, coaching changes (and with it, usage changes), and increased expectations. Matty has been worth the price of admission, and will likely be an all star for the second time (although it should be his fourth).
And while he has been the best player on The Avs this season, he hasn't been that far from his statistical averages over the course of his career. He has had 47.8% of his shifts start in his own zone over the course of his career, with 47.7% this season. His Fenwick and Corsi have both been within 4% of his career averages as well. So what does this mean for this season? His numbers are only likely to pick up as he continues to reach his prime, as his shooting percentage and on ice SV% is bound to increase as the season progresses.
The Avalanche have well documented struggles possessing the puck, but despite having fewer offensive zone starts than many of the other playmakers in the league, Duchene has forced his way into 54 shots. Beyond that he is consistently setting other player up with passes the average player couldn't see, let alone complete. This leads to additional chances, and additional momentum that is unquantifiable, but absolutely affects the outcome of games.
Duchene's efforts with specific fans, such as Dawson Hamilton or Trista Greer, make him easy to root for, not to mention his favorite team growing up was the Avs. When asked about Peter Forsberg's HHOF induction, Duchene remembered Foppa's last comeback attempt in which he played on a line with Milan Hejduk and Duchene. Duchene still has the stick Peter used, and said that is was the same line he used in career mode on EA Sports as a kid.
As Avalanche fans, don't let a player of this magnitude go taken for granted. As special as he appears on television, he is a sight to behold from the nose bleeds of The Can. He is a long way from the rafters, but you owe it to yourself to watch him work his way up there. And what a special moment it will be for both of you, when he joins his heroes.