Analysis

Chicago Blackhawks 2016-17 Over/Under: Duncan Keith

By Mario Tirabassi
Dec 6, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith (2) controls the puck against the Winnipeg Jets during the second period at United Center. Blackhawks won 3-1. Mandatory Credit: Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 6, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith (2) controls the puck against the Winnipeg Jets during the second period at United Center. Blackhawks won 3-1. Mandatory Credit: Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports /
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As the regular season begins in just a couple of days, the Chicago Blackhawks are looking to improve on their early exit last season. Over the next few weeks, Blackhawk Up will give projections for the stats of each player heading into the season, based off the trend of past three seasons, career averages, and potential linemate projections. 

Duncan Keith continues to be a defensive workhorse for the Chicago Blackhawks

For as bad as the Chicago Blackhawks defensive core was last year, the brightest-shining star was the play of Duncan Keith. After missing a good chunk of the beginning of last season recovering from knee surgery, Keith stepped back into his role as the top defender for the Blackhawks and logged yet another 25-plus minutes of ice time per night.

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Once again, Keith will be called upon to prove to everyone that he isn’t human, but a hockey cyborg. The kinds of seasons that Keith has had and the amount of time he consistently plays for the Blackhawks is astounding.

Then factor in that he does most of his best work in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, sometimes hitting 30 minutes of play a night, and it makes a very strong case that the United Center one day will hang the No. 2 in the rafters between Glenn Hall, Pierre Pilote and Keith Magnuson.

The top pairing for Chicago this season, much like it was last season, will be Keith and Niklas Hjalmarsson after years of Keith being paired with Brent Seabrook. It worked well for both Keith and Hjalmarsson in 2015-16, and with Brian Campbell added to the mix, the Blackhawks will be in a better position to not have to rely on Keith to be the hockey cyborg Keith has been the last few years.

A more fresh Keith throughout a whole season means amazing things for the Chicago Blackhawks and bad things for the rest of the NHL.

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Factors

Last Three Seasons:

  • 2013-14: 79 GP – 6g, 55a, 61Pts, +22, 24:39 TOI
  • 2014-15: 80 GP – 10g, 35a, 45Pts, +12, 25:34 TOI
  • 2015-16: 67 GP – 9g, 34a, 43Pts, +13, 25:14 TOI

Career Average

  • 82 Game AVG: 8g, 37a, 45Pts, +15, 25:19 TOI

Potential Linemates:

  • Niklas Hjalmarsson – Most Likely
  • Brent Seabrook – 50/50
  • Brian Campbell – 50/50

Projection: 9G, 42A, 51Pts

Without having to worry about a carousel of defenders in the second pairing, the Blackhawks can be more confident playing Keith in his usual roles. Powerplay, penalty kill, 25 minutes a night: all the good things that make Keith a perennial Norris Trophy candidate.

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Writer Prediction: Slightly Over

Playing with defensively-minded Hjalmarsson all season will allow Keith more freedom to play his two-way, yet more offensively-minded style of play.

He consistently manages the top powerplay unit and will continue to play in that role. He’ll play the majority of the penalty-killing minutes again this season, and Keith will have his opportunities to put up major minutes and major numbers in 2016-17.

Plus, with his knee injuries behind him (one hopes), Keith can get back to being a night in and night out player.

As far as hardware goes, it may take the Blackhawks getting to the Stanley Cup Final again for Keith to have a shot at anything (i.e. fourth Cup or Conn Smythe No. 2), because the Norris Trophy for best defenseman is a numbers game, and it’ll be hard to top Erik Karlsson in offensive production.

Therefore, the production prediction for Duncan Keith is 51 points for the 2016-17 season.

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