With everything that has happened surrounding the Nashville Predators this season from trading core veterans to announcing a new general manager, somehow the team has managed to stay afloat in the pursuit of the postseason.
Let’s all be real honest here; the Nashville Predators should’ve been eliminated from realistic playoff contention weeks ago, and yet here we are. Young players growing up really fast has been the key catalyst, but I want to show some love to Matt Duchene in all of this.
The most casual of fans have probably been scrambling as of late to learn all of the new players being called up, their jersey numbers and their style of play, but Duchene remains the veteran constant that everyone knows, along with Colton Sissons among the forwards.
Duchene Has Taken on the Veteran Leadership Role During this Rollercoaster Season for Smashville
The Nashville Predators have 13 games left to make one final push into the playoffs while navigating through all the key injuries, the latest being to captain Roman Josi.
Surprisingly, Duchene has avoided the injury bug that has plagued the rest of this team as he’s played in 68 of the team’s 69 games. He’s been moved all over the lineup, as has everyone due to roster turnover.
Duchene’s numbers predictably have been significantly lower than last season’s breakout campaign where he set a new Predators franchise record for goals in a season with 43, while just now passing the 20-goal mark last night in the 7-3 romping over the Buffalo Sabres in one of his more dominating games of the season:
It’s Duchene’s ninth time of his NHL career that he has hit the 20-goal mark, and he also added an empty-net goal to give him the three-point game, the fifth time he’s hit that mark in a game this season.
I really like the potential of Duchene and Philip Tomasino being on the same line for the duration of the season and beyond. They complement each other’s game very well and Tomasino is finally getting to benefit from playing with a skilled veteran like Duchene on his line.
Cody Glass centered the Duchene/Tomasino line and provided two goals, while the line featuring the young phenom Luke Evangelista accounted for four goals while on the ice together with Kiefer Sherwood and Tommy Novak.
Duchene has had this quiet poise and leadership about him all year. When a team goes through a massive sell-off like the Predators did at this year’s trade deadline, it reshuffles everything and makes it difficult for veterans to get adjusted to newcomers in the lineup. Especially when you’re talking about inexperienced prospects who are going to show some growing pains.
In the early going of Duchene’s career with the Predators he was catching a lot of criticism, some deserved, for being disengaged and too streaky for his lofty contract he was signed to. Then last season happened when he exploded for 86 points and boasted a shooting percentage of just under 19 percent.
With Filip Forsberg, Juuso Parssinen and Ryan Johansen on the shelf with injuries, and Mikael Granlund and Nino Niederreiter being traded at the deadline, Duchene has had to get adjusted to a lot of roster turnover and provide the veteran stability. It hasn’t been all smooth, but his leadership shouldn’t be ignored.
When and if Forsberg returns, which it sounds like he’s getting close, then Head Coach John Hynes will have a tricky decision to make on if he reunites Duchene and Forsberg, or keeps them separated to be on lines with the younger players like Tomasino, Novak or Evangelista.
We’re talking about a roster with six of its top-ten point scorers right now either traded away or injured. And then you have Duchene sitting there at second on the team in points with 54, which is still ahead of his pace in 2019-20, his first season with Nashville.
I’m really interested to see how Duchene finishes off this season. He has three more years left on his current contract that expires in 2027 when he will become a UFA.
The numbers may not be popping off the screen like in 2021-22, but I still appreciate the hell out of Duchene’s leadership and commitment to his team when it would’ve been easy for him to become disconnected like he has been criticized for in the past.