Thursday

Steve Duchesne

This is Steve Duchesne, pictured in his 1988-89 OPC rookie hockey card.

Steve Duchesne was an excellent offensive catalyst from the blue line. He was an excellent power play quarterback, with his hard, low shot which he somehow usually got through traffic; and his crisp and sudden passes combined his ability to read the breakdowns in the defensive coverage.

Duchesne's best years were with Wayne Gretzky's Los Angeles Kings in the late 1980s and early 1990s. He was the Kings' version of Paul Coffey, Gretzky's old running mate in Edmonton. He was an exceptionally mobile skater who never shied away from joining the attack or cheating into the slot.

He put up some great numbers in LA, averaging 22 goals and 66 points in Gretzky's first three years. Even in Duchesne's first two seasons prior to 99's arrival he was starting to push 20 goals and 60 points. It was quite surprising that Edmonton did not insist on Duchesne coming north as part of the Wayne Gretzky trade.

Not bad for a defenseman no one wanted back at the NHL draft table. A bit of a late bloomer, Duchesne was passed over by every team in two NHL drafts, signing with the Kings organization as a free agent filler for the farm team. Two years later he was running the Kings power play and named to the NHL All-Rookie team.

Like most offensive defensemen, Duchesne's defensive game was never as good as his offensive game. He did not use his skating as well defensively, likely because he did not dissect the oncoming attack as quickly as he could when his team was on the offense. He was at times guilty of making bad gambles and looking bad in doing so.

He did not make breakout passes as well as Coffey (then again, very few ever have), preferring to rush the puck out of the zone. He was of average size, yet he was never likely to engage in physical battles. Opposing teams knew to dump the puck into his corner and hit him early and often, and he likely would be less effective in that game.

Regardless, he was an exciting defenseman who provided the necessary offensive presence any Wayne Gretzky-led team needed. Despite his popularity in Los Angeles though, he was traded to Philadelphia in 1991. The impatient Kings moved Duchesne and Steve Kasper to the Flyers for bruising defenseman Jeff Chychrun and a fellow named Jari Kurri. In giving up Duchesne the Kings paid dearly for Gretzky's old side kick. The hope was the two would come together like in their old glory days back with the Oilers, but it was never really rekindled.

Duchesne went on to play a strong season in Philadelphia (18 goals, 56 points) before he was moved again for another superstar. Duchesne was sent back to his home province as a key part of Philadelphia's monster package to acquired teen phenom Eric Lindros. The package also included Peter Forsberg, Kerry Huffman, Mike Ricci, Ron Hextall, Philadelphia's 1st round choice (Jocelyn Thibault) in 1993 Entry Draft, $15,000,000 and future considerations which turned into Chris Simon and another draft choice.

Despite being back home in Quebec Duchesne would find himself on the move again rather quickly, this time as the result of a contract dispute. After just one season he was on his way to St. Louis.

Duchesne definitely got a reputation as a vagabond player. Perhaps teams only realized how good Duchesne was after they let him go. After all, after two seasons in St. Louis he was off to Ottawa for two years (really sparking the lowly Sens), only to go back to the Blues for1 year, before splitting another season back in LA and back in Philadelphia.

He finished his career with three seasons in Detroit, providing a veteran presence although his offense had all but dried up. Duchesne retired after the Wings won the Stanley Cup in 2002.

In 1113 NHL games Steve Duchesne scored 227 goals, 525 assists and 752 points. He was an upper-echelon offensive defenseman, though never an all star or Norris trophy contender. He was a fun defenseman to watch, especially on the power play.

Not bad for a player who was never drafted.

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