Keith Marlboro Man

Well, We’re Waiting – The Committed Indian.com’s Season Preview: Marlboro 72

A quick note. You all seem to be caught off guard with the multiple posts recently. I know, it’s weird. But we’re going to keep doing it, so be prepared. Comment on all of them.

Right, to the blue line. There is no surer unit than the Hawks top pairing. There’s no speculation, there’s no controversy, and it remains the envy of a lot of teams in the league. At least there’s one thing we can all count on. So the only thing we have to figure out is how to tweak it.

Duncan Keith (aka The Flash)

2011-2012: 74g – 4G – 36A -40P – +15 – 2.5 SH% – 0.17 Behind The Net Rating

Keith has come in for criticism, some of it heavy, the past two years. Part of that is falling short of the ridiculous standards he set in the previous two years. But some of it was justified. Keith’s game has always been a high-wire act, and when a bigger percentage of the risks he takes don’t come off, he can look awfully Cirque du Solei. Instead of turning away from a forechecker behind his net he gets buried or forced into a turnover. Jumping into the rush sometimes causes an odd-man the other way. But you wouldn’t want to take that out of his game, because otherwise you’re left with just a different version of Nick Leddy. Oh, and Keith can occasionally lose his rag.

However, there are no concerns about Keith other than how good he will be and his minutes. On the former, he could tame some of his decision-making slightly to help out in his own end. He’s not Bobby Orr, and he’s not going to be. The latter is going to involve rolling three pairs — which Q can do now that Brookbank and Rozsival provide depth he hasn’t had in a while — and maybe a creative solution they would never consider.

And that would be getting Keith off of the power play.

Because Keith doesn’t provide all that much on the man-advantage. He’s not that good of a passer to QB it. He’s fast, but that’s about it, and his stick-handling isn’t that superior where he can push the PP with his feet and carry it into the zone. We all know the trouble he has with getting a shot to travel more than 10 feet before careening into shin pads. And it would save him a minute or two at least per game. The problem is there aren’t a lot of people who could fill his kinda-QB role. Seabrook can fill in, but he’s a better triggerman.  Leddy’s QB-ing the second unit in a perfect world (well, actually in a perfect world he’d prove he can QB the first). Rozsival, Brookbank, Hjalmarsson, and Oduya are simply not power play players, no matter how much Q tries to shoehorn Oduya into one. He’s going to toss a forward on the point anyway, maybe Bolland would be more effective trying to run one instead of just being the shoot-dude as he has been before. If you’re running an umbrella as it is, you can have Seabrook back there alone anyway.

This would also allow Keith to concentrate more on the penalty kill, which could use added attention.

Keith’s goal-rate will go up because he couldn’t possible manage a 2.5 SH% again — his career average is double that. If the risks he takes come off, he’ll contend for a Norris again. If they don’t, he’ll be a pretty effective d-man who occasionally will shoot his own team in the face. And as we’ve learned over the years, how good the Hawks are and how good Keith are is a tangential relationship.

Brent Seabrook (aka Biscuit, Seabs)

2011-2012: 78g – 9G – 25A – 34P – +21 – 5.8 SH% – 0.67 Behind The Net Rating

There is a serious argument to be made that Hawks fans should change their prism on how they view the Hawks top pairing, and adjust to the notion that it is Seabrook who is the Hawks best blue-liner and not Keith. Some of it is age, as Keith approaches 30 and Seabrook is now firmly ensconced in his prime. Some of it is the growth in Seabrook’s game whereas Keith’s has kind of plateaued at an admittedly very high level.

But Seabrook is the better passer. He’s smarter. He’s the Hawks main physical force. He’s better on the power play. In fact, there isn’t anything that Seabrook doesn’t do well. I would argue that since Patrick Sharp featured on the cover of every magazine in the city and vacated the title, it is Seabrook who is the unsung hero on the Hawks. He’s not Chris Pronger, and yet he’s not as far away from that where it’s silly to suggest same. He’s that good.

What can you expect from Seabrook this year? What you always do. Solid contributions in every facet of the game, and shutting down the other team’s top threat. He’ll chip in on the power play. He’ll hit. He’ll set up some rushes with his underrated passes out of the zone. He’ll be where he’s supposed to all of the time.

The only real concern is that Seabrook was the concussion worry before Toews and Hossa became them. He’s had a few, and is never far away from another with his style. But isn’t everyone? Maybe this is the year where Seabrook gets the national recognition and possible Norris talk instead of his partner. Maybe it should start with a majority of his own fans.

  • BodomSlayer

    Good write up. I’m too excited for this weekend…keep the multiple posts coming, damn it!

    • justforkicks

      agreed!

      • BodomSlayer

        I’m just pissed I have to work Saturday during the game :( . I’ll be able to catch Sundays though :D

        • justforkicks

          that really stinks, maybe you can have it playing in the background or something? That’s what i did with world juniors at work and the us open, lol. oops. i’m planning on sitting on my ass all weekend, eating til i can’t eat no more, and watching all the hockey

          • BodomSlayer

            I hate you with the fiery passion of 1,000,000 suns. Ok I don’t actually….I just envy you! I’ll catch Sundays game though :D

          • justforkicks

            rude!!!

            hopefully the results will at least be something good you can then come home to!

  • Chitownproud85

    +1000 for so many posts lately. Constantly refreshing this page has begun to pay off. As for 7 and 2, I cant see how too many people can be riding the Keith bandwagon harder than Seabs. He plays at too high of a level, too consistently, to be overlooked anymore. While I wouldnt argue that the ceiling for an entire season might still be higher with Keith, at the end of the day, Seabrook is the Hawks best d, period.

    • guest

      I’m leery about that. He’s certainly their most consistently good d. But the ceiling is why I watch hockey. If I wanted to watch perfectly executed systems that never make mistakes I wouldn’t watch the hawks, know what I mean? I like the flash, I like the risks, I like the highwire. Sure they fall off now and again. If it came down to for-sure winning a cup with the most boring, trappity trap systemic scoring-by-committee defensive team and taking the crapshoot fly-by-night black magic team we have now, I’d take the hawks how they are.

      That said, I can’t pick favorites I love them both.

  • http://twitter.com/LBlissettUSA Luther Blissett

    Where are we on the 2008-2010 Keith being so awesome because of Seabrook? I feel that’s the realization most Hawk fans need to come to more so than Seabrook is the best defenseman on the Hawks. I’m not knocking Duncan here, I just think Seabrook has been really really good for longer than most Hawk fans realize. Keith was better those years, but Seabrook allowed him to be so great imo.

    Anyway, there’s little wrong with Seabrook’s game… great player who would easily make Team Canada… I think Keith makes it too, but he’s not a shoe in.

    • Waylon

      It’s probably both players making each other better, but I’d go with Seabs over Keefer for the ultimate D – Man. But I still like Keefer a hell of a lot, plus he can get chippy when other players take one too many liberties (Hi, Mutant One – how’s your melon doing these days?). Plus, Keefer’s contract looks great compared to Weber’s and particularly Suter’s – I think Suter’s going to be exposed this season when other teams start playing him without his favorite bankie alongside him.

      • http://twitter.com/JackTheSquid Jack Meyer

        Weber will be exposed as well.

    • M7

      Speaking of Team Canada, I think Keith is more likely to make that team than Seabs. Personally I prefer Seabs game to Keiths but Canada is laden with right-handed shooting elite defensemen (Weber, Pietrangelo, Doughty, Myers, Burns, Letang, Girardi, Subban, Seabrook) with only a couple high-level left handed shooters (Keith, Del Zotto – and Giordano, but I don’t
      think enough people give him credit for his game). Obviously many of these guys are capable of playing their off-wing, but in selecting the 2014 Olympic team (if the NHL goes), I’m sure the brass would like to have a couple lefties there for diversity sake. To me, that makes Keith a likely, almost shoe-in,
      selection.

      • http://twitter.com/LBlissettUSA Luther Blissett

        Good point.

  • Paul the Fossil

    Totally agree about Seabrook, he’s joined Toews and Hossa in my personal “most-complete elite player on the Hawks” pantheon. (With now a “when healthy” asterisk in all three cases, unfortunately.) All you young hockey players out there should just watch those three guys closely in lieu of listening to all that jibberjabber coming from the broadcast booth.

    There is sadly no chance that Q will follow any advice for riding Keith’s minutes any less. But even so I wonder whether this shortened season isn’t actually kind of made to order for Keith.

    He’s a famous conditioning fanatic even by NHL standards so I bet he’s in his usual astounding shape despite the lack of a real camp. Meanwhile the 30 minutes/game grind won’t have nearly as much time to grind him down: 48 games instead of 82. The last couple of seasons hasn’t Keith seemed drained by March or so? Not this time. Also for the first half of this it seems likely that raggedy play around the league will mean that (a) opposing teams are less likely to successfully pounce on Keith’s screwups and make the Hawks pay in ways which Keith’s sheer blinding speed can’t catch up with, and (b) Keith’s high-risk screwups won’t stand out as much because there will be more players doing similar stuff due to rust.

    So I won’t be surprised if for this shorter season Keith ends up as a Norris candidate again. And perhaps more importantly he may be fresher for the playoffs than he has been lately.

    • http://twitter.com/oregon_hawk Oregon_hawk

      I think a lot of blame can be leveled at Q if Keith’s minutes are sky-high again. He has real defensive depth – not scott+AHL callup (although, to be fair, he would dress scott for incomprehensible reasons).

      The minutes should be much more evenly distributed this time around. If they’re not, that can be laid squarely on Q’s shoulders.

      • guest

        “Mr. Rozsival, welcome to the United Center. This is the Sami Lepisto Memorial Popcorn Booth, where you will have the honor of watching as Q dresses Brandon Bollig as a defenseman and plays him ahead of you. Enjoy your stay.”

        • Paul the Fossil

          Ick…sigh. Wish I thought that was wrong.

          • Z-man19

            Q may not last the season if he dresses Bollig as a Dman, accidents do happen

        • Joe Banks

          “Q dresses Brandon Bollig as a defenseman”…
          I think I just threw up in my mouth a little…

    • ahnfire

      Except while there are less games, there are also less breaks in between games. So I don’t know how much the shortened season will help.

  • 334Rules

    Seabs’ awesomeness comes from the fact that he so rarely makes mistakes. While he may not be as flashy as his partner, he also is significantly less likely to leave his goalie pantless in the snapping-turtle pond. And as noted, his passing could very well be the best in the league for blueliners.

  • justforkicks

    3 more dayyyyys

    • justforkicks

      i can’t count. 4 more dayyyyyyyyys

  • Westtownfred

    I found the Pronger comparison very interesting because while at a game last season, I leaned over to an equally well-served friend and noted that I thought Seabrook possessed one of the best, first passes out of the zone that I had seen since Pronger. I’d like to see him move more bodies from the slot this year to give Crow sight lines to shots and also a fighting chance at rebounds.

  • http://whatisthebestadverb.wordpress.com/ I am not Chico Maki

    So if (IF) Keith’s risks don’t pan out, meaning that he’d “pretty effective” and would occasionally “shoot his own team in the face” … then that contract of his suddenly becomes one of the worst not just on this team, but in the league.

    I’m sort of just being a dick, but if that “if” comes to fruition, is Keith a compliance buyout option? If people think now and again that Hossa could be, then this “iffy” Keith would also have to be, no?

    (I’m not advocating this, I’m just saying it.)

    • flahawkfan

      I think other teams (and fans of other teams) appreciate Keith a lot more than Hawks fans seem to. I’m guessing a lot of teams would trade for Keith if he were available. After last season’s and this past summer’s d-man spending frenzy Keith’s price tag is small, even if he is “iffy.” Maybe the Hawks would buy him out but I can’t see it. All he really needs is for Q to stop playing him so damned many minutes. His head seems to get twisted when he goes over 25-26 mins/game.

      • http://whatisthebestadverb.wordpress.com/ I am not Chico Maki

        I appreciate Keith a lot. And I don’t think the 5.5 is necessarily a bad contract. But at the very least, I’d think people have to admit that it’s not so much the 5.5 as it is the next TEN years. And yes, 5.5 in even five years won’t be the same as it is now, but a decade?

        Do I want him on the team? Ya. But he has some improving to do if he’s going to get back to being the player that his contract suggests he is.

        P.S. Buyout isn’t the only option. Under the new CBA team’s can retain up to 50% of the average annual value of a player’s SPC in a trade. So, say, trading Keith and keeping half his contract (or Hossa, say) is perhaps far more appealing than buying out … and both are the quality of player that at a reduced cost would have huge appeal in trade.

        • http://twitter.com/ChiNativeSon ChicagoNativeSon

          Paging “I am not Cliff Koroll.”

          • cliffkoroll

            Heh. Couple days late as usual. Plus, groupthink is like City Hall, inasmuch as you just can’t fight it. So, the history books have been rewritten and Seabs, apparently, has always been much better than Keith. Whatever. It’s virtually impossible to argue against since the two are usually out there together.

            Of course, the conventional wisdom around here is surely more acumen-laden than Mike Babcock, and we all remember what Babcock thought of Keith v. Seabrook from the Olympics.

    • guest

      I think the risks either pan out or don’t in the sense of “either he’s a great defenseman or he’s the best defenseman.” We’re paying him about what you’d pay a great defenseman (look at the weber/suter contracts ffs), so either we get our money’s worth or we have a ridiculous bargain on our hands. Either way, no buyout no way never.

      • Paul the Fossil

        Yea, this. I admit that I’m as guilty as anyone else of falling into the trap of seeing only the screwups but in reality Keith’s contract is now a good notch below the top D salaries in the league.

        And as far as the looking-ahead comparison with Hossa’s contract, an important difference is that Keith is nearly four years younger than Hoss.

      • amontesawesome

        I think you could make the argument that Keith’s play the last 2 seasons has fallen more under the category of a “pretty good” defenseman than great. At the very least his numbers are a marked step below Suter/Weber.

        • guest

          His contract is also a marked step below them–5.5 per vs 7.5 (suter) or 7.8 (weber).

          It’s true his contract was signed before massive contract inflation happened, but if we buy him out that’s the market we’ll be looking for replacements on. The question isn’t “who’s better than Keith,” it’s “who can you get for 5.5 that’s better than Keith at his worst?”

          • amontesawesome

            I generally agree. I’m not saying he should be jettisoned, just that, in my opinion, his level of play is below what I would consider to be “great.”

            I’m just concerned that Keith’s play has kind of plateaued the last few seasons. If this is indeed the floor, then I think you can argue that he’s worth 5.5. But if he’s regressing already at 29 and his play dips further in coming years… Then I think we have a problem.

          • http://whatisthebestadverb.wordpress.com/ I am not Chico Maki

            Keith at his worst, I’d argue, is not a 5.5 million dollar player. Keith at his best is better than that, true. It’s just a matter of which Keith makes it to the ice in the next, ahem, ten seasons.

    • amontesawesome

      As someone who has been extraordinarily lukewarm on Keith the last few years, I don’t think what you are positing is ridiculous.

      To be honest, I think it is possible (possible) that you could talk me into buying out Keith instead of Hossa.

  • RLWiener

    More posts = more time I can waste at work. Keep’em coming.

  • shinkicker

    Dammit, now I have to go dig out my Seabrook jersey from whatever suitcase it’s been packed into.

    Also please, Q, for the love of god, dog or whatever you hold dear, don’t make Keith skate 30 minutes a night. I want to see him skate without looking like he probably wants to die a little bit. Maybe rest will bring better decision making. And maybe he can actually play with Seabrook most of the time instead of Q pairing him with Leddy and Seabs with Hammer, like that made any logical sense.

    Between this and the forward lines and the entire John Scott thing last year I want to put forward the idea that Q is a fucking sadist and hates us all.

    • Accipiter

      I’m a Saadist.

  • PainSt

    Top D pairing is very very good
    While i agree that seabrook is now our mos coveed Dman
    i have to say in Keith’s defense that he did it all without a size and strength advantage
    He did it all with a busted swolen face
    and if he stops shooting the puck into every shin in the building
    he’ll do it all again

  • Neal Schmidt

    One of the things I am interested in observing is the possible shift in defensive strength with the Hawks this year. Over the last couple years the Hawks have
    been somewhat suspect on their right side – second and third defensive pairs. So when Seabrook wasn’t playing with Keith he was playing with Hammer; while Keith was trying to cover for Leddy or players like Boynton.

    Now Hammer is looking like he is going to play on the right side and the Hawks brought in two fairly responsible right handers in Brookbank and Rozsival. So this season it will be Seabrook trying to cover for Leddy and Oduya. While Keith gets possibly the better defensive minded partners.

    Also when Keith and Seabrook were split it was Seabrook that tended to play more with Bolland while Keith played more with the Hawks second line center, whoever that was. With Bolland on the second line even when Keith and Seabrook are split they should get a more even distribution of the Hawks top two centers.

    Anyway, it will be interesting to see how people’s perceptions of Keith and Seabrook might shift as a result of these changes.

    • amontesawesome

      If I remember correctly the Keith-Leddy pairing was effective CORSI wise. Moreso than Seabrook-Hjammer, but 4-7 drew the more difficult assignments so it was probably a wash in that respect.

      Good point about the new center alignment having an affect too. It’s hard to even speculate what that impact will be, though. I can hardly wrap my head around what it will look like. I still don’t totally understand taking the best checking center in the league and using him in any other capacity, but we shall see.

      • Neal Schmidt

        I don’t have the Corsi information but Seabrook/Hammer were
        +7 and Leddy/Keith were -4.

        I have Goals For / 60 and Goals Against / 60 for
        Seabrook and Keith with both defensive partners:

        With Hammer
        Seabrook – 3.49 GF/60 – 2.33 GA/60
        Keith – 3.05 GF/60 – 1.02 GA/60

        With Leddy
        Seabrook – 2.73 GF/60 – 3.07 GA/60
        Keith – 2.96 GF/60 – 3.80 GA/60

        So both Keith and Seabrook were minus players with Leddy and plus players with Hammer. Leddy did play better on the left though. Which is most likely why the Hawks wanted him on the left in the A.

        And I do think “defensive/offensive zone matchups” are going to at least initially be a casualty of the condensed schedule. I don’t think you will see “checking lines playing exclusively against top lines in defensive zone draws” styles of play as often as in the past. It really looks like teams need to role lines more often to get through this season. Which is why I am NOT surprised at the move of Bolland to the second line.

  • Z-man19

    Once again this topic boils down to goaltending for me, if Crow is good I think Keith will be good. Maybe, just maybe Duncs won’t play as many 25+ minute games. It will be interesting to see if Q will actually use a 6th Dman consistently

  • Ray

    I finally find a article that speaks the truth about Seabrook and Keith. It has boggled my mind for years watching the two play that people think Keith is better than Seabrook. I see people talk about buying Keith out but he is not that bad. What I would do now is try and flip him because the belief is still out there looking at predictions that Keith is elite (which he is not). Maybe some GM will fall victim to the hype and maybe you could pick up a young up and comer for Duncan.

  • FakeASeizure

    Last season was when I realized that Seabrook was my D-darling. When he was in the A and all the other times he was carrying the team in crucial moments when we had guys out with injuries and the like, he was a star. Any thoughts on putting him back in the A?