Oh You Didn’t Know?

…for those of you at home who get that, I’ll go ahead and let you finish that line out.

McClure and I were talking yesterday, and we’ve had to raise a bemused eyebrow at how Duncan Keith, that’s two-time Norris winner, two-time Gold Medalist, should-have-’10-Conn-Smythe Duncan Keith, is having something of a coming out party this playoff run. It’s amazing what amounting counting stats for the national hockey press can do.

But it takes a point-per-game to get people to notice a d-man we guess, even though this isn’t absurdly higher production than Keith has put up in deep Hawks runs before. In 2010 it was 17 points in 22 games (when he was taking on the toughest assignments as well and simply kicking a hole in the world). He had 13 in 22 games in ’13, and last year was 11 points in 19 games.

But this is his first point per game postseason, so now everyone notices. But we’ve known all along how good Keith is, and we’ve known it for several years. We were saying as far back as 2009 that even though Kane and Toews draw all the headlines and attention, the Hawks go as Keith goes. When he’s not good (and it’s not often), the Hawks struggle. When he is good, there might not be a better team.

As we start paying attention to other numbers to try and figure out what’s going on, Keith’s consistency since his and the team’s rise to prominence is what marks him out. In terms of possession since 2008-2009, Keith has been the best possession d-man in the league. In seven years Keith’s CF% has never been below 53.4% and peaked at 56.1 in ’09-’10 (and he was at 55.9 this season, at age 32).

And really, that’s how Keith should be primarily judged. Because his job, especially since Hjalmarsson took over the main checking duties two years ago, is to push the Hawks the other way. He’s a great defender, as his goals-against per 60 are about in the top-25 the past seven years (Hammer is actually 2nd at 1.88 since 2009, behind only Chara).

Some marvel that Keith can do this at 32, but for one the arc for defensemen is a little longer than forwards, and around these parts we’ve always known about Keith’s freakish physical make up. And this isn’t unheard of. Scott Niedermayer was basically stink-fisting the entire league between ages 32-34, and retired at 36 when he was still useful if not dominant. Nick Lidstrom had a 57.1% when he was 42. And like Lidstrom, Keith has benefitted from continually playing behind a very talented crop of forwards (and despite the forecasts of doom, Keith won’t be playing behind Huey, Dewey, and Louie next year).

You don’t even have to look at Hall of Fame quality d-men to find ones who have remained more than effective into their 30s. Brian Campbell just had a 54.5% season at age 35, and you’d best believe if he goes on the trading block in the last year of his deal next season teams will be lining up. You all will laugh, and I can’t stop you or tell you you shouldn’t, but before missing a full year and blood clots in his leg, Kimmo Tmonen was a near-dominant possession player until age 38 last year (and seriously, it was just last year). So what Keith is doing is not unheard of, just perhaps the scale of it.

The thing with Keith, and people have looked at this is criticism when it’s not, is that he’s not Erik Karlsson or PK Subban. He’s not going to go end-to-end past three people. Keith’s offensive totals depend on what his forwards do with the platform he provides. While he made a 100-foot pass to Kane to set up Saad for Wednesday’s first goal, and then faked out half the Ducks to set up Hossa for the 2nd, those moments are more sporadic than they are for Karlsson and Subban. It’s Kane’s goal that is the perfect demonstration of how Keith gets his points. It’s standing up at either blue line, forcing a puck back up the ice because not only is Keith quicker than most skaters but he reads the play as well as anyone to augment those feet, and giving his forwards time and space to make plays. Keith keeps that puck in at the Ducks’ zone, beating a forward who is then out of the play, Kane has time to then set up Beleskey to send his jock into the 200 level, and it’s on. This is how Keith does it.

When Keith’s point total has binged, it’s because his forwards are just shooting better than other years. Keith put up 61 points last year, and his team shot 9.2% at evens which is very high. His 69 points in 2010 came with his team shooting 8.7 at evens. When Keith put up only 45 in 2010-11, his team only shot 7.2% at evens. But his possession numbers were no different. This year was his second-most dominant possession season, and his second most goals in a season as he shot 6.5% at even-strength, which is high for a d-man. But his teammates only shot 7.9%, which hurt his assist total. Keith has always done the same thing, it’s whether his teammates do the same with it that determines his point total.

I don’t know why Keith doesn’t get the attention he deserves. He’s been prickly at times with the press which hasn’t helped, though given his taste for heavy metal and slasher films, should it surprise anyone he’s a little sinister? The team doesn’t push him out there as much as they do others, and maybe that’s his choice. Maybe we don’t lavish the praise on him as much either, which is weird because he’s been basically my favorite Hawk since he came into the league. Perhaps we just take him for granted.

But we shouldn’t. He’s just as sure-fire of a Hall of Famer as Toews or Kane (at least he should be). His number is going to the rafters just as assuredly as well, and probably should the day he retires. Maybe we just needed everyone else to pay attention so we started paying attention again.

  • ZigZags82

    Sooooooo Keith gets the Game 7 GWG tomorrow? Best Dman in the league.

    And I think people often forget Keith, Seabs, and Sharp have been around since the Hawks still sucked. All the more to appreciate them and the part they have played in the Stanley Cup contention ascension.

    • Jim

      Sharp has been here for the entire arc. Sadly, for salary cap considerations, I think it’s safe to say he’s gone after this year. May Sharp go out in style, and score key goals in Game 7 and the SCF, and hoist the Cup. One thing, Sharp, on breakaways, *please* elevate the puck over the goalie shin pads!

      • ZigZags82

        One gets the feeling he will come through for the Hawks in the clutch just like that. What a player. Sharp has scored in 19 straight playoff series. Hasn’t yet in this series…….He’s due! He’ll certainly work for it.

  • SuperHawk27

    Two (2) time Norris Trophy winner. I think people have been paying attention. Kieth has been doing it so long, its not as impressive as when PK came into the league and won the Norris. He isn’t as polarizing either.

  • Duncan Keith once mentioned he’d choose Johnny Depp to portray him, were a movie to be made about his life. I guess that could have the chance of going a little sinister if one let it.

    • Jim

      never mind….

  • Keith has been absolutely amazing to watch. To think we have him locked up until 2022 at a 5.5 cap hit is amazing… Think about what he could’ve fetched on the open market the last few years, it would’ve been way more than 5.5/yr aav.

    The curious point, and I hope we have several more years before this becomes an issue, is the potential for cap-recapture penalty.

    • jekyll1489

      I think this is a pretty interesting question to pose. If you were another GM, what would you give up to have arguably the best defenseman in the league locked up for a 5.5 hit for the next 7 years? Even if he remains dominant for 3 more years and then starts his decline it is an absolute steal of a contract.

      Look at the contracts of defensemen right now:
      Subban – 9 – 2022
      Webber – 7.8 – 2026
      Suter – 7.5 – 2025
      Letang – 7.2 – 2022
      Campbell – 7.1 – 2016
      Phaneuf – 7 – 2021
      Doughty – 7 – 2019
      Chara – 6.9 – 2018
      Pietrangelo – 6.5 – 2020
      Karlsson – 6.5 – 2019

      Not only is he the greatest defenseman ever to put on the Indian Head, his contract allows the Hawks to ice better talent than his counterparts contract. I would go to war with Keith and 4.5 million extra in cap space for the next 7 over PK Subban.

      • jekyll1489

        Looking at comparable players is difficult, so I started looking at comparable contracts.

        OEL – 5.5 – 2022
        Macdonald – 5 – 2020
        Faulk – 4.8 – 2020
        McDonagh – 4.7 – 2019
        Pacioretty – 4.5 – 2019

        OEL for Keith might give me the slightest bit of pause there… but probably not….

        I’m trying to think of a contract that has benefited a team in terms of value above replacement as much as Keith’s has. Anybody got a comp?

        • Hags

          Tavares at 5.5 cap hit through 2018?

          • Yeah but as we’ve seen with Toews/Kane their day of reckoning will happen too…

          • Sopel the catfish

            Okposo is due for a new deal next year too I beleive

          • ZigZags82


          • ZigZags82


      • Jim

        Wow, I’d take Keith over any on that list. Doughty is a close second and a bargain too.

        Those 12 year Suter , Letang, Webber contracts are a joke, Suter is already seeing decline. Weber is damaged goods, as is Letang.

  • fromheretoinfirmary

    I’ve said this to my friends, and some laugh, but I think this run of being constant contenders ends not when toews and kane start to slow, but Keith. He’s the motor of this team. When he starts to regress, the team will follow. Luckily, it looks like this is happening later rather than sooner.

    • ZigZags82

      Even so there will be other guys in the pipeline

  • AirTrafficAJ


    Seriously though, the other thing that’s amazing about Duncan is the complete lack of injury he’s sustained (most assuredly due to his freakish commitment to cardio that makes me tired thinking about) despite being willing to take the hit to make the play (as we saw in game 6). For as long as this fan base was shit on by Dollar Bill, getting players of this caliber seems like the universe going “yeaaah, sorry about that. We owed you one”.

    Truly amazing to watch, truly proud to be a fan.

  • TitanTransistor
  • GoldenJet

    One game 7 road team is in the finals…thank you sir, may I have another.

    Tampa played great defense and NY couldn’t figure anything out.

    • ZigZags82

      Here’s to hoping for arena silence at the end of the game tomorrow night like tonight. You know, the sound where you could hear a pin drop. (Other than the Hawks and their fans at the game of course!)

  • Lemmy

    Dude: the guy has won 2 Cups, 2 Gold Medals, and 2 Norris Trophies as the #1 defenseman of the Hawks and as #1 of Team Canada. He’s no secret. He just had a monster game, so appropriately, everyone is writing stories about him in the main press.

    If you want to talk about secrets, let’s talk about Hammer or pre-trade Leddy. Hammer could be the #2 on most teams and the #1 on some. Leddy, as we’ve seen, was secretly a top 4 dman.

  • ItNeverEnds

    I know I take him for granted. In the D-zone there is nobody better, but I focus my aingst, if you can call it that, on his shortcomings on the PP (he’s just not a PP QB which is somewhat perplexing, and his uncanny ability to shoot pucks into shin pads. All that said, DK is a freaking monster, an unsung hero, and as you said, the Hawks engine.

    Let’s kick these shithead Ducks in the gonads tonight, Boys! Let’s Go Hawks!!

    • ItNeverEnds

      One more note, last season against the Kings the man who scared the crap out of me most was Drew Doughty, whenever he had the puck he was making plays and making me nervous. At tgat time i thought I’d take him over DK if given the opportunity, today Im not so sure that’s still the case. Both of those guys are the best D-men in the league, though. Better than PK, better than Weber, etc. no question in my mind. Anyway, enjoy the game everybody! I was gona go to Anaheim but my friends have no balls to take a trip on a whim.

  • ballyb11

    Perhaps we just take him for granted.

    • ballyb11

      Perhaps we just take Hjalmarsson for granted.

      Perhaps we just take Seabrook for granted.

      Perhaps we just take Sharp for granted.

      Perhaps we just take Toews for granted.

      Perhaps we just take Saad for granted.

      Perhaps we just take him Oduya for granted.

      Perhaps we just take Crawford for granted.

      Perhaps we just take Hossa for granted.

      Perhaps we just take Kane for granted.

      Hell, I’ll even say,

      Perhaps we just take Krueger for granted.

      Perhaps we just take Shaw for granted.

  • Coach K

    if you are at the game just watch him and marvel at what he does. An all-time great!