Statistically speaking, Matt Duchene is coming off the best season of his career. However, the 22-year-old forward isn't satisfied with his 2012-13 performance that saw him tie for the team-scoring lead with 43 points (17g/26a) in 47 games.
"I had a pretty good year last year," Duchene said. "That is a good start, but it is something that I want to build on."
That good season came after a trying 2011-12 campaign.
Selected third overall in the 2009 Entry Draft, Duchene's first two years in the National Hockey League can be considered quite successful. He finished third on the team in scoring during his 2009-10 rookie campaign with 55 points (24g/31a) and was a Calder Trophy finalist. In 2010-11 he finished with 67 points (27g/40a), becoming the youngest player in franchise history to lead the club in scoring (20 years, 84 days).
However, his third season saw a hiccup in the center's upward scoring trend.
Although he missed 24 games midway through the season with separate leg and ankle injuries, Duchene finished with a career-low 28 points (14 goals and 14 assists) and only had two goals and two assists in his final 21 games.
"I'm a person that doesn't accept failure and personally, I considered my third year a failure," Duchene said. "There are two ways to go: you can get bitter or you can get better. I chose to get better and I really wanted to take everything to another level."
With a renewed focus on not having a repeat year, Duchene changed his offseason regimen in 2012. He changed his diet and hired the same trainer as Pittsburgh Penguins forward Sidney Crosby.
"I still worked hard in the offseason my first couple of years, but what I think happened was that I had so many different people telling me different things that I was kind of confused on what I needed to do," he said. "After my third season, I wanted to reevaluate where I was at and take a step in the right direction."
The moves paid off.
Duchene had been known for his slow starts to seasons in his first three years in the league, but that didn't happen in 2013. He had 17 points (six goals and 11 assists) in his first 14 games and never cooled off with his longest point-less drought being only three games. In the 48-game season, he had a career-high .915 points-per-game and also led the club in assists (26), game-winning goals (3), shots (132), faceoff percentage (54.6) and takeaways (44).
With one year left on his current contract, Duchene signed a five-year extension on July 18 that will keep him in the Avs' burgundy and blue colors through the 2018-19 season.
"Matt already is and will be a big part of our team's nucleus for the long term," said Colorado's executive vice president of hockey operations Joe Sakic. "We all felt that it was important for us to secure his rights for several seasons. With his great skill, speed and character, he represents the identity we want [our team] to be."
For Duchene, he said it was special to know both Sakic and head coach Patrick Roy wanted him to be a long-term member of the Avalanche – his favorite team while growing up in Haliburton, Ontario.
"Joe and Patrick are hockey icons and have been heroes of mine since I was five years old," said Duchene, who has both jerseys of the Avalanche greats back at his family's Canadian home. "Being able to have those two guys approach me, wanting to extend my contract and say the nice things that they did during the process was a thrill and a dream come true."
Duchene has already been working hard this offseason to improve on his great 2012-13 year and recently went to Nova Scotia to do more specific conditioning with his trainer and work with Crosby and Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado's first-round selection in this summer's draft.
While training with some of the other most skilled players in the league is sure to be motivating, Duchene's driving force is to get better every year.
"I play this game because I love it and I'm absolutely obsessed with it," he said. "I've been doing the same training course this offseason as I did last summer, and I'm feeling really good right now. I can't wait for the season."
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