Pretend it's yesterday.
It was a little bit of a down year for Matt Duchene, producing only 21 goals and 34 assists. It's a big step down from his 70 point season the year prior. But if you think about it, this was kind of the return of the Curse of Duchene's Winger.
Not only did he lose a very productive Duchene Wing to trade in the offseason (PA Parenteau), he lost an even more productive one when Paul Stastny walked to the Bloos, leaving Ryan O'Reilly to fill his abandoned centre slot. 2014's most common linemates of O'Reilly and McGinn/Parenteau/MacKinnon-the-rookie were replaced with Iginla and usually Tanguay. Can we talk about line composition for a minute?
- Two years ago: Duchene (a guy who can set up and score, but isn't good at getting the puck from his opponents and sometimes will give it up taking risks) with O'Reilly (a guy who's usually in the right place to pick off a loose puck or put home a clever scoring chance) and Third Guy (who can chip in high-level scoring but won't create it themselves). That's a balanced trio that feeds off each other's strengths.
- Last season: Duchene (same guy) with Iginla (who can still score with the best of them but has become a possession passenger himself) and Tanguay (who elevates his teammates' offense but doesn't add much of his own and is okay but not amazing two-way). This trio has offensive accumen but is equally offensive in front of its goaltender.
Duchene's line needed more protection last season--as we discussed often. Here, for example. They started more shifts in front of Varlamov than in the scoring zone. So did the entire team though. Duchene's line was used basically right on the baseline for the whole team in fact, within a range of ±2%.
What does it mean for 2015?
You know, that's a good fucking question. Thank you, I thought so.
Duchene's point totals are closely related to how much his line has the puck, and for Duchene, that's most closely related to how, and with whom, he is deployed. We don't really know what his line is going to look like this year.
However, we do know that state media (which is to say, the team website) keeps referring to Soderberg as an O'Reilly replacement expected to slot between Landeskog and MacKinnon. So anyone expecting Duchene's line to change much out of the gate is going to be disappointed.
What can change for him, however, is better deployment, and a better transition game coming out of the defensemen behind him. The addition of Zadorov should help with this, and swapping Hejda for Beauchemin should do the same, as would decreased playing time for the Holden-Stuart-Guenin Triumvirate.
What we'll actually see out there on the ice is ultimately up to Coach Roy and injury luck. That's difficult to predict. The fan in me wants to settle on a 60-65 point prediction, and the cynic wants to say "more of the same." Aw hell, it's August. Let's go with the 60-65 number.
Defense and Corsi-type stats not considered because this is not what we are playing Matt Duchene for. Linemates determined by 5v5 ice time from stats.hockeyanalysis.com, all other numbers from hockey-reference and War on Ice. All other predictions from you, below, assuming the express written consent of Major League Baseball.