Duchene Largely MIA Thus Far in Ottawa
Matt Duchene scored twice on Friday, including the winner in overtime, to lead the struggling Ottawa Senators to a 6-5 victory over the San Jose Sharks. The following night, the 26-year-old forward scored a goal as the Senators upset the league-leading Tampa Bay Lightning 6-3.
Those two games marked Duchene’s first point streak since he was dealt to the Senators in a Nov. 5, 2017 trade from the Colorado Avalanche. The Sharks’ contest was also his first multi-goal game with his new team.
Prior to this recent offensive outburst, Duchene found the back of the net in just three previous games as a Senator.
A former 30-goal scorer with five 50-plus point seasons on his resume, Duchene was expected to significantly bolster the Senators’ scoring punch. But in his first 26 games in Ottawa, Duchene had six goals and four assists for 10 points. Considering he needed only 14 games to reach the same points total with the Avalanche earlier in the season, his production is well below his usual levels.
It’s safe to say this isn’t what the Senators anticipated from Duchene when they pried him out of Colorado in a three-team, multi-player deal that also saw them ship center Kyle Turris to the Nashville Predators.
Turris was eligible for unrestricted free agent status next summer. Depending on who you believe, the Sens couldn’t or wouldn’t meet his asking price. While Duchene and the Senators struggle, Turris has become a welcome addition to the Predators. With 19 points in 26 games since the trade, he’s providing invaluable depth at center for a Nashville squad harboring Stanley Cup dreams this season.
This also wasn’t what Duchene envisioned. Unhappy with the floundering Avalanche, he was a frequent subject of trade speculation stretching back through last season. It was assumed he’d regain his scoring touch on a deeper, more experienced Senators’ roster.
While Duchene struggles to find his offensive form and the Sens languish near the bottom of the Eastern Conference, the once-laughable Avalanche are chugging along fine without him. They enter this week holding the final wild-card berth in the Western Conference.
Compared to the previous focus on Duchene’s trade status, his difficult adjustment period in Ottawa isn’t garnering as much media attention. His woes are largely overshadowed by the Senators’ other problems. Team owner Eugene Melnyk’s veiled threats about cutting costs and relocation, team captain Erik Karlsson’s intent to seek full value on his next contract and the frequent trade chatter involving streaky scoring winger Mike Hoffman have gobbled up the headlines.
The Senators’ problems aren’t the result of just one player or issue. Overall, it’s been a poor team effort this season. For his part, Duchene maintains a positive outlook. In a pre-Christmas interview with the Ottawa Sun’s Don Brennan, he insisted he’s adjusting well to his new surroundings and expressed confidence the club could turn things around.
Perhaps his recent scoring surge is a personal turning point. Finding his offensive comfort zone could help the Senators regain their winning ways and improve their already long odds of reaching the postseason.
Should the Senators fail to qualify for the 2018 playoffs, pundits and fans will start pointing out those they believe most responsible. If Duchene doesn’t significantly improve over the remainder of this season, he’ll be among those cast in an unfavorable light.
Duchene faced his fair share of criticism from Denver fans and media during his final years with the Avalanche. If things don’t improve soon, he’ll find the spotlight in Ottawa can be much harsher.