Center Matt Duchene was the Nashville Predator’s prized free agent signing last offseason. After a 31 goal and 70 point season in 2018-19 with Ottawa and Columbus, the Predator’s signed Duchene to a massive seven year deal worth $8 million per season. In his first year with the Predators, Duchene managed just 13 goals and 42 points through 66 games. That is not nearly good enough for a guy who was given a huge contract to be an impact player.
Not All On Him
There is no doubt that Duchene needs to step up and produce more next season. However, his low point total this season was not entirely his fault. The Predators as a whole struggled offensively for much of the year. Their leading point scorer was a defenseman (Roman Josi), not a forward. Their leading goal scorer (Filip Forsberg) only had 21 goals. And Duchene’s 42 points were actually good enough for third on the team. It’s hard to rack up points on a team where nobody racked up points. Still, 42 points is not enough for $8 million a year. Duchene was brought in to be an impact player and form a formidable one-two punch down the middle with Ryan Johansen. Both he and Johansen had rough seasons in 2019-20.
Reasons For Hope
There is certainly reasons for hope with regards to Duchene in a Predator’s uniform though. Many players struggle in their first season with a new team. Sometimes it takes a while to adjust to new players, new coaches, a new system, and a new city. It’s not uncommon for players to struggle in their first season, but get better once they are more comfortable with their surroundings. Duchene is also 29 years old, meaning he is still in the prime of his career and not yet on the back end. If Duchene was 34, it would be a different story, but he still has plenty of great hockey left in him. Finally, the Predators as a whole struggled this year. If the team plays better next season, Duchene will likely be better. If Duchene plays better next season, the team will likely be better. Both Duchene and the rest of the team can feed off each other to improve next year.
The Predators were expecting a lot from Matt Duchene when they signed him last summer. With his contract and top-six role on the team, he should be producing at least 20 goals and 60 points per season. He fell short of those expectations this season, but the team fell short of expectations as a whole. It’s far too early to write off Duchene as a Pred, however. It’s only been one year. Expect him to be better next season. He has to be better next season. Otherwise that contract could become a big problem really fast.