Analytics Advantage: Matt Duchene

by Matt Cane with Rob Vollman

What are the numbers saying about Matt Duchene?

Matt Cane and Rob Vollman have devised a system to project a player's future performance by finding players with common statistics historically (Vollman, on the left) and in the modern day (Cane, on the right). This article is part of a series to introduce readers to their system, and to demonstrate how it can give you an edge in fantasy hockey.

After 113 points in 118 games coming out of the 2013 lockout, which ranked 15th in the NHL on a per-game basis, a 24-year-old Matt Duchene fell short of expectations, with just 21 goals and 55 points last year. Obviously, Colorado's three-time leading scorer is due for a bounceback season ... or is he?

While the projection based on Duchene's historical comparables (on the left) predicts that his scoring totals will bounce back to 62 points, the approach that uses more modern statistics and more recent players (on the right) actually predicts a continued tumble to just 51 points – just three points more than the historical worst-case scenario.

Rob's Take: I don't buy it. Jarome Iginla may have won the team scoring race, but Matt Duchene is the team's top scoring threat (until Nathan MacKinnon is ready to state otherwise).

Duchene led the Avalanche in scoring in three of the preceding four seasons, and look at the impact he had on his linemates.

  • He played with Milan Hejduk in 2010-11, who then dropped from 0.79 points per game to 0.46 without Duchene, and retired soon thereafter.
  • P.A. Parenteau was his linemate with 2012-13, whose scoring them dropped from 0.90 points per game to 0.60 without Duchene, and traded to Montreal for practically nothing (and had to throw in a kicker!), and was then bought out after one season.
  • He played primarily with Ryan O'Reilly in 2013-14, and even his scoring dropped from 0.80 points per game to 0.67 without Duchene, leading to trade out of town.
  • If this pattern holds, then it could be very bad news for last year's primary linemate, Jarome Iginla!

Duchene is one of Colorado's classic all-around players. He's good at faceoffs, has gone 16 for 42 in the shootout, and has drawn 138 minor penalties in his career while taking just 48 of his own, thanks to his tremendous speed. He was even used as an effective penalty killer in 2012-13, and had great possession numbers in 2013-14. If he brings this all together at once, then he could be a Hart candidate!

Though virtually all of his historical comparables represent an improvement over last year's 21 goals and 55 points, Dennis Maruk stands out in particular. Here was another speed demon, but one that most fans don't remember because he played primarily with struggling expansion teams like the California Golden Seals, the Cleveland Barons, the Minnesota North Stars, and the Washington Capitals. Nevertheless, he is best known for scoring 60 goals and 136 points for Washington in 1981-82, which works out to 41 goals and 93 points at today's league scoring levels.

While I wouldn't be shocked if Duchene his 90 points if he plays with MacKinnon, and everything comes together for them, the best case scenarios in the 70s is a far more realistic target. Barring injuries, I'd be shocked if he remains in the 50s.

Matt’s Take: Is Matt Duchene really a secondary scoring option? It seems hard to believe that the topic would even be up for debate for a 24 year old who has already won an Olympic Gold Medal, but after a rocky year in 2014-2015 (at least by his standards), it’s worth asking whether the former 3rd overall pick has got the magic that made him one of the league’s up and coming stars over his first five years. Perhaps more worrying than his performance last year though is how his modern comparables consistently turn up with mediocre results. His weighted average prediction is merely 51 points, which would be his second-lowest full year total of his career. And if you remove his highest scoring comparable, Mike Ribeiro’s age 30 effort, it’s a remarkably steady picture of mid-level scorers coming in between 40 and 55 points. These aren’t bad totals for a 24-year-old by any means, but they’re nowhere near the potential he showed out of the gate, and a far cry from the 63 points that his base projection would suggest. 

One interesting thing to note is that only three of the 10 players from the modern list saw their clubs make the playoffs in their comparable years, and none of those three teams made it past the first round. All of this seems to suggest a narrative that fits all too well for Matt Duchene: players with lots of natural talent on teams that just can’t seem to get it done. It may be then that Duchene’s success will be tied to that of the Avs this year. If they’re successful, we could see him return to his past high scoring form and end up closer to the historical comparables, while if they falter again we’re likely to see Duchene end up closer to his modern counterparts.

As such, if you’re bullish on the Avs this year he may be a good buying opportunity, as his last campaign has surely knocked his value down below his potential output. If you’re like me, however, and think that Patrick Roy’s system might keep Colorado towards the bottom third of the standings again, you may want to play things more cautiously. He’s obviously a player with an enormous amount of talent, but even natural ability can frequently lose out to a poor supporting cast and tactical weaknesses.

For complete projections on over 700 active NHL players, Vollman and Cane Historical Projections 2015 is available exclusively through the Dobber store for just $4.99 – or it's free if you bought the Fantasy Guide using the coupon code on page 151!


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