Many of the NHLers in Europe may only be there because of the NHL lockout but that doesn't mean they're phoning it in or taking it any less seriously. (With a few exceptions.) You don't make it to the NHL without being crazy competitive to a fault, and even if you have to take a break from the NHL for awhile, that competitive streak isn't just going to go away. These guys hate to lose.
As evidence, we turn to Colorado Avalanche centre Matt Duchene, who is currently lacing up for the Frolunda Indians of the Swedish Elite League. He had some strong things to say about the group after a 2-0 loss to Modo on Tuesday.
Duchene, via Adrian Dater at the Denver Post:
"Joel Lundqvist is a perfect example. He always works his ass off. Everyone should do that. But I'm not so sure everyone gets that. We just can't play this bad. It is so poor. We were getting booed by our own fans, it's unacceptable. They pay a lot of money to watch us and it's not fair of us to play so bad."
"If this was in the NHL, five players would be sent down to the minors after a game like this. But here, players are too comfortable. There are 33 million Canadians that would sacrifice an arm to play hockey at this level."
"We play good against the top teams, like HV71. This Monday we had a good practice. But on the morning skate before the game it wasn't good. The guys weren't ready. The intensity was missing. But this is your job. You have to work your ass off every day. You have to empty the tank. This is not a "Social hour". You can't just put your skates on and skate around. Everyone could have a bad game, but when you don't prepare yourself for a game, when you don't give it your very best…. If we play like this against a top team like Skellefte? we would be down 5-0 after the first period."
Strong words from Duchene, who is one of the youngest guys on his team. Granted, age ain't nothing but a number in Colorado. Heck, Home Alone 2: Lost in New York was released two days before their captain was born.
As Eurolanche points out, Duchene's comments don't simply stem from letting Modo put three points between them and Frolunda with a shutout win. It's more than that. Frolunda's won just one of their last four, and they haven't won two games in a row since Duchene arrived in early October.
Meanwhile. Duchene's interest in Skellefteå probably has something to do with that team's ability to do what the Indians can't and put a string of wins together. They've won seven in a row. Why can't you be more like Skellefteå, Frolunda?
Either way, it's interesting to see that, even though Duchene is simply biding his time in the SEL and may not even be there when the season comes to an end, winning it still matters a great deal.