Ron Chenoy/USA Today Sports

Anderson: Matt Duchene looks like the best trade Don Sweeney never made

Ty Anderson
October 10, 2017 - 7:34 pm

Let’s play guess that player.

This forward skated in just 12:09 of time on ice on Monday. He had zero shots (he didn’t even attempt one for that matter), finished the physical part of his night with one giveaway, and won five of his 10 faceoff battles at the dot. This player somehow finished this game with an assist and plus-1 rating for his trouble, proving once and for all that plus/minus is a stat that is 100 percent meaningless. (His assist only happened because Tuukka Rask took a midday stroll 35 feet out of his net, too.)

Oh, and he somehow did all of this (read as: nothing of any real substance) while his line dominated possession in a game matched up against a team down the best two-way centers in hockey.

Shockingly, it’s not anybody on the Bruins team that got their heads kicked in by a 4-0 final on Monday, but rather Avs forward Matt Duchene, a trade target that the Bruins are going to thank themselves for skipping out on trading real assets for this past summer.

Duchene is openly miserable to be playing meaningless hockey with the Avalanche, and his actions have made that no secret. His training camp availability, in which he said he wasn’t answering questions and noted that he reporting to camp out of respect for his teammates, was one of the stranger things in recent memory. Especially for a sport like hockey, where everybody’s a ‘good guy’ and almost nobody says how they really feel. To put Duchene's misery in context we can all relate to: the 26-year-old Duchene is probably one inevitable extended losing streak away from pulling the fire alarm and simply running away with the hope that nobody ever finds him.

But Colorado boss Joe Sakic has also made it known that Duchene cannot get away, and that he cannot be had for your team’s finest seventh defenseman and a pack of magic beans currently dominating D-2 colleges or hidden in the depths of what any European league has to offer. Sakic’s largely right to stick by those guns, too, with what expected to be a lengthy rebuild process with the Avalanche. Sakic wants legitimate defensive help -- and some more.

And if that demand included the likes of Ryan Ellis or Mattias Ekholm from the Predators (a team rumored to have interest in the No. 3 overall pick from 2009), or any member of the Blue Jackets’ star defense corps (another team rumored to have interest), that ask would have most definitely included one of Charlie McAvoy or Brandon Carlo -- Boston’s two prized defensive prospects -- from a Bruins point of view.

Which after watching Duchene on Monday remains a hilarious joke if you’re a B’s fan.

Not only are those players untouchables and were never once considered to be on the table from B’s general manager Don Sweeney, but in a game where those Bruins (and the other young B’s that could have been deemed throw-ins, such as Jake DeBrusk and Anders Bjork) could not have looked any worse than they did, the older, more expensive Duchene did nothing to show why he would ever be worth trading those players in 2017.

Is this reading entirely too much into one game? Of course. But the simple fact is that there’s more to be discovered when it comes to all of those players (who all stole the show when it came to the club’s opening night victory over the Preds), while Duchene continues to collect the stink of a loser likely not worth the risk in more ways than one.

Under contract for over $6 million for this season and next, there’s something to be said for Duchene ‘putting on a brave face’ and actually playing for the Avs, with one goal and three points through the first three games of the season, sure. But there’s also something to be said for the way he’s failed to revive his game back to what it was when he first break into the league (great players still produce, even on bad teams), that his goal-scoring game still varies as much as it does (Duchene has averaged a near eight-goal difference year-to-year over the last four seasons of hockey), and it’s concerning that he admitted he was ‘burnt out by January’ a season ago.

Meanwhile, you’re just beginning to see the promise of those young, growing Bruins players who will have equally quiet nights, but do it against your salary cap for under a million dollars, and under $3.5 million if they all struggle on the same night, which is exactly what happened Monday at TD Garden.

It’s that kind of addition -- or non-addition in the case of Duchene and the Bruins -- that’s already showing signs of making Sweeney look like a genius for deciding to pass, even when staring directly in the face of defeat from a Duchene-led Avalanche group.

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