Often the most unfairly criticized player, as well as arguably the most important player on the Chicago Blackhawks, Duncan Keith returned to “elite” status in 2013.
After winning the Norris Trophy in 2010, Keith appeared to fall off a bit, in the next two seasons. In 2011, he even admitted to being “disinterested” at times. Perhaps this is part of the Stanley Cup Championship side-effect, known as the Cup hangover. Keith is heavily depended on by Blackhawks Head Coach, Joel Quenneville, often times collecting 30 minutes of ice-time per game. While he wasn’t at his Norris level of quality after winning the Cup in 2010, all the way through 2012, but he certainly didn’t deserve most of the ridiculous criticism that he received, during that time, and sometimes STILL receives.
Top defensive pair, Penalty Killer, Power Play blueliner, and at or around 30 minutes of ice-time per game. You couldn’t possibly ask for that from any other player on the team, or even most of the league, for that matter. With a big contract, and being a former Norris winner, unfair criticism is just the nature of the beast, even if he does a job that no one else is able to do.
While there was still criticism in 2013, Keith returned to truly elite status amongst NHL defenseman. It was clear that the extra time off, due to the lockout, did wonders for Dunc’. Keith also averaged less ice-time than in recent years, which could be a recipe for success, when dealing with Keith.
Yes, he is on the Hawks top Power Play unit(which honestly isn’t saying much) he isn’t quite the offensive defenseman, that people sometimes expect of him. Keith is a more balanced defenseman, who will put up very solid offensive numbers. He is Coach Q’s most reliable player, but he is still human and makes mistakes now and then.
As for 2013-2014, it is hard to say what Keith will do. Having experienced a Cup hangover already, I think Keith will be determined to not let that happen again. The big issue with Keith is burning out. After winning the Cup in 2010, the Hawks traded away lots of their depth, and as a result, Keith was routinely in the 30-minutes of ice-time category, during that season. I think Q will try to prevent that from happening again, at all costs. Yes, Keith will reach 30-minutes of ice-time every now and then, because he is THAT player, on the Hawks, that can be asked to do such a grueling task.
I don’t expect Norris like numbers or play, during 2013-2014, but I predict Keith will have a solid season, with a copious amount of unfair criticisms.
Goals-10 Assists-40 Points-50 Plus/Minus- +20
Having been down this post-cup road before(both Coach Q and Dunc’) I don’t expect a disappointing season, but it would be ridiculous to expect Keith to duplicate his 2009-2010 season, although it could happen. It’s safe to expect a solid season from Duncan Keith, which for 90% of the remaining defensman, in the NHL, would be a spectacular season.