DENVER – Matt Duchene watched every minute of last year’s Stanley Cup final. And the Colorado Avalanche’s second-year centre found it to be a disturbing way to start his off-season.
“I found myself asking why aren’t we there and wishing I was there,” Duchene said. “It only made me hopeful that we would be one of those teams next June.”
Duchene joined the other Colorado Avalanche veterans who arrived Friday for medical checks and physicals. Their training camp begins Saturday.
Duchene led all NHL rookies with 55 points last season. He tied John Tavares with 24 goals and was second to Calder Trophy winner Tyler Myers of Buffalo with 31 assists.
“I realize that last year was a starting point,” said Duchene. “Hopefully, we can keep it going.
“That is why I want to increase at my level, I want to start where I finished last year and I don’t want to go backward.”
And the third overall pick in the 2009 draft backed his talk with a workmanlike off-season.
“The result was my body fat went way down and my stature went up and I hope that shows up when we play,” he said. “I think I am faster on the ice.”
As for his improvement on the ice, he concentrated on his shot, making quality use of his ice time and becoming a better all around player.
“I went over to Germany after the season, got a little bit of distance from the game and I tried to shoot the puck more and had a little bit better results with that,” he said. “I also looked at playing better without the puck, playing good both ways, just like the top players in the league do.”
Avalanche coach Joe Sacco agrees with the approach and the young centre’s drive to improve.
“The good ones on this league are all about being consistent and doing the same things year after year,” Sacco said. “I feel Matt is the real deal and he will do it year after year.”
Sacco said the same applies to goaltender Craig Anderson, who set career highs in games played (71), wins (38) and shutouts (7) after never getting into more than 31 NHL games in six previous seasons. He made 23 consecutive starts in 2009-10.
“Craig had a solid season for us last year,” Sacco said. “He gave us a chance to win just about every time he stepped on the ice.”
Sacco would not speculate on how many starts Anderson would make this season.
“I’ll take it on a game-by-game basis,” he said. “We have two very capable goaltenders with Peter Budaj coming back.”
As for the team, Sacco said he realized the expectations would be higher than last year, when the team was predicted to finish no better than 15th in the Western Conference. But the team’s brief training camp affords little time to worry about it.
“There is a small window of an opportunity for players to show what they do best,” Sacco said. “Moving forward is all that we can do and for me it starts Day 1 in training camp,”