As much as I love Peter Forsberg (he is my favorite NHL player of all time), he’s got it all wrong about the Matt Duchene situation.
”Doubtful that he should be allowed to play (with the Avalanche),”
As translated by Expressen's Robin Lindgren, Forsberg went on to say,
“Put him in the stands. If I were playing with a player that I know doesn´t even want to be [on] the team, it´s not like he is going to throw himself on the ice and block shots with his head. It is mostly difficult to have a player like that [on] the team, although he is skillful and is doing his best. I would rather play with someone that wants to be there. I would put him on the bench and trade him.”
Only a handful of sentences from Foppa but what he says carries a lot of weight around the Avalanche organization and the fans. So much so that Coach Bednar, a man who rarely responds openly to public criticism, fired back at Peter Forsberg earlier this morning before they took the ice against the Boston Bruins.
But before we get into what coach said, I’d like to break down sentence by sentence why Forsberg is profoundly mistaken.
- ”Doubtful that he should be allowed to play (with the Avalanche).”
- When Duchene arrived at camp he was obviously frustrated about still being an Av. Time and time again, days leading up to the trade deadline, before the NHL Entry Draft, during the offseason, Duchene was told he would be traded. As if your boss repeatedly told you that you’d get that promotion promised to you but 8 months later you’re still in that crap job. It can’t be fun for Duchene to be lead on like that and then expected to be cheerful when a mic is shoved in his face. So when he received backlash for stating “I’m just here to honor my contact” I felt for the guy. His reason is the same reason the Avalanche should play him. He’s under contract and one of the most skillful players we have. You play him.
2. “Put him in the stands. If I were playing with a player that I know doesn´t even want to be [on] the team, it´s not like he is going to throw himself on the ice and block shots with his head.”
- I can see where Forsberg is coming from on this. You don’t want to stand next to a player who doesn’t want to be there. That’s toxic. I get it. But do you see it? After the first couple of weeks through camp and preseason games, the awkwardness started to settle and you saw Duchene relaxing a bit and having fun with his teammates. He’s smiling on the bench and is often times the first player out on the ice at practice. Actions speak louder than words and until Duchene starts playing without a heart, you take his play as a sign of commitment. P.S. Besides the obvious, no one is blocking a puck with his head, Foppa.
3. “I would put him on the bench and trade him.”
- As if we haven’t been actively trying for the past 8 months. No doubt Sakic has put the price tag for Duchene at an above market rate and it doesn’t help that he had one of his worst years to date last season. But Sakic and Co are making the right call in holding off until the return is satisfactory, no matter how unpopular it may be. Putting an asset like Duchene in the stands would likely quell a number of potential suitors and add a very testy, already agitated player roaming the hallways at the Pepsi Center. A growing black cloud of dejection ready to pour down on the early season. No thanks.
Now back to Coach Bednar’s remarks as report by Mike Chambers of the Denver Post,
"I disagree with (Forsberg). It’s hard for someone to say that that's outside of our room, you know? These guys have been together for a long time and we're focusing on winning hockey games, and he's a big part of that."
I think we can all agree Coach is completely right. It’s easy to have an opinion on something in which you’re not completely apart of - I.E. This article.
On the other hand, this is a coach trying to diffuse a situation. He’s right in that “these guys” have been together for a long and their focus is winning hockey games. However, we haven’t won very many hockey games with “these guys” in the past few years and “he” certainly is a big part of that.
Bednar goes on to praise Duchene’s play as of late,
"I think Matt’s a top player for us right now, arguably our best forward last game, so I like the way we’re handling the situation. I like the way he’s handling it. He’s here to play and his line has been real good."
In 3 games, Duchene has 1 goal, 2 assists, +3 rating, 6 SOG and a 54.05 FO%. His line has been fun to watch and has been extremely productive so far. It’s unclear on whether certain distractions from a player will burden a team but so far there’s been no sign of that from Matt Duchene.
What is clear is that like it or not, Duchene is an integral part of this team as long as he bears the A on the front of his jersey. The season is still very young, but he’s playing great hockey and it’s in his best interest to continue to do so. He knows it. His agent knows it. The team knows it. And until he starts hurting the team ON the ice, Foppa will just have to deal with his distractions OFF it.