Winning might fix a lot of things, but can it repair a bridge that has been burned?
In the case of Matt Duchene and the Colorado Avalanche, the answer may very well be “No.”
On Monday, Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston declared as much during an intermission interview with Jeff Marek (no video or audio available at this time). Elliotte Friedman backed up such sentiments in his latest “31 Thoughts” piece for Sportsnet, deeming it “unlikely” that winning would patch things up.
The most promising element might be that the Avs seem to be a little more open-minded when it comes to the sort of return they’re expecting for the speedy forward:
I do think they are doing work on non-NHL prospects of potential trade partners — especially left-handed defenders. That might be a way to break the trade stalemate, providing Colorado’s scouts like what they see.
Getting NHL teams to shake loose quality defensemen who are already on their rosters is easier said than done, but it’s easier to sell management and fans on guys who haven’t made an impact yet.
(Although that’s not always true, of course, as sometimes people tend to inflate a prospect’s chances when their work lives largely in their imaginations.)
Really, whatever it takes to get Duchene out of his misery, what with sad-looking photo shoots and comments from Peter Forsberg/other childhood heroes.
Other NHL teams – not to mention Avs GM/other Duchene hero Joe Sakic himself – should take this as another reminder to be careful how they handle players, even if they’re shopping them. Whether it comes down to official statements or allowing things to “leak,” you can really damage a relationship if you lack a certain level of finesse.
Allow a digression: it’s difficult not to think of how the Avalanche had a falling out with Ryan O'Reilly when considering the Duchene situation. There’s the possibility that it provides a window into Duchene’s thinking.
Back in 2015, PHT looked at resurfacing reports about tension between the two forwards toward the end of ROR’s time with Colorado. Duchene explained that O’Reilly was a great teammate “at the rink” and seemed irritated that the two-way forward was trying to break through what seemed like a $6M ceiling in Colorado.
So, in Duchene’s mind, he might have taken less money than he could have in accepting $6M per year.
Imagine, then, the frustration he felt in being a team player and then seeing his team dragging his name through the mud. Even if his take wasn’t that dramatic, the treatment came across as harsh.
Would a few early wins really smooth all of that over?
Either way, even that narrative is fading out, as the Avalanche are on a two-game losing streak to fall to a more modest 4-3-0 so far in 2017-18. That’s still a quantum leap from the historic lows they hit last season, but Duchene can be excused if he doesn’t believe that putting the team before his feelings will open the door for some deep run.
Look, it’s understandable that the Avalanche want to get a great return for Duchene. Sports are littered with quarter-on-the-dollar trade where contenders give up junk for struggling teams’ best players.
On the other hand, every now and then, the planets align for fair NHL trades. Ryan Johansen goes for Seth Jones. Brandon Saad and Artemi Panarin meet specific needs for their respective new (old-new) squads. Even Dany Heatley for Marian Hossa was pretty reasonable, considering the circumstances the then-Atlanta Thrashers were facing.
Still, trades are fun, and it’s tough not to feel a little jealous of the NBA’s frenzy, where super teams aligned and realigned seemingly on a weekly basis.
It would just be straight-up fun to see Duchene try to take the Columbus Blue Jackets to another level or make the Nashville Predators seem downright scary. One might even change Duchene’s soundtrack from Simon & Garfunkel to the theme for Dawson’s Creek in rapt anticipation.
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