Speed is the name of the game.
In many ways, the Blue Jackets and Matt Duchene seem like they were made for one another.
You have Duchene, a highly-touted player in his draft year who’s had ups and downs with the Colorado Avalanche, looking for a change of address as soon as possible. Things aren’t working out between the two, and it’s becoming obvious that a divorce is imminent.
The Blue Jackets are looking for an upgrade, particularly at center. They have quality depth at the position and would like to get to a place where Alexander Wennberg isn’t counted on to generate the lion’s share of offense from the middle of the ice. Such was the case a season ago, and while Wennberg is a fine player with one hell of a future, GM Jarmo Kekalainen knows the best teams have more than one of those guys.
So in a variety of ways, this moves makes sense for Columbus. They have the assets – depth on defense, draft picks and solid prospects – to swing a deal with the Avalanche, who have been rumored to be asking for the stars when it comes to a Duchene deal (which is their right, however, it won’t do much to expedite the process).
And Duchene, who possesses elite speed and isn’t afraid to shoot the puck, meshes with the style the Blue Jackets want to play under head coach John Tortorella. Yes, "Safe is Death" applies here.
There’s risk in his game but there’s also creativity; Duchene can lead the rush and, just as quickly, retreat to cover his tracks.
Here’s a sampling of what those wheels can do:
Of course, there’s more to what meets the eye with any player.
The Blue Jackets have a talented group in their hockey operations department that handles analysis and research, and if Duchene is truly a target, they’ve no doubt done their homework on him along with several other potential players of interest.
On the surface, the numbers are promising: Duchene is only 26 years old and has amassed five seasons of 20-plus goals in his NHL career (the entirety of it spent in Denver). In 2015-16, Duchene hit the 30-goal mark for the first time, but his celebration of the 30th goal struck a chord with then-coach Patrick Roy, who ripped his own player post-game:
Mind you, this was Patrick Roy, the guy who once tried to showboat so hard that he dropped the puck and gave up a goal:
Duchene’s shooting percentage has been stable throughout his career and he’s been durable, as well; over the last four seasons, he’s played 71, 82, 76 and 77 games while recording at least 50 points three times.
Not only is Duchene in the lineup on a regular basis, but he’s producing offense as well.
Analytics paint a good picture of him, too. Duchene’s 2016-17 season was solid from a possession standpoint, finishing the year with a 51.0% Corsi at even strength while starting less than 48% of his shifts in the offensive zone. Playing top-six forward minutes on a team that has notoriously had bad possession numbers, Duchene consistently drove play when he was on the ice and had a positive impact on his line mates (3.0 CF% relative).
Now, this is all quite assumptive because Duchene is not a member of the Columbus Blue Jackets. If rumors and reports (your two best friends this time of year!) are to be believed, the Blue Jackets are interested and, if so, it’s not much of a surprise.
They’re looking for skill, speed, and help at center – and Duchene brings all three.