Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith has been the team’s most important blueliner for years, but his worth is only increasing this season
The Chicago Blackhawks’ defense has been much-maligned this season. With the recent decline of Brent Seabrook and the inexperience of Jan Rutta, Gustav Forsling and Michal Kempny, Duncan Keith has been called upon to be more of a defensive leader.
While Keith is not having his best season, he is still invaluable piece to the Blackhawks. The key to the Blackhawks’ success over the years has been their possession games, Keith has been a huge part of that.
I believe Keith is even more valuable now than he has been in years past. Tyler Dellow of The Athletic shares my view. He broke down all the top defensive pairing in the NHL in terms of Corsi-for.
"One gets the sense looking at Chicago, that if Duncan Keith ever sustained a long-term injury, the Blackhawks would collapse upon themselves."
The reason Keith’s value is even higher now than in years past is because of his supporting cast. This year’s supporting cast is weaker than in years past in terms of Corsi. The only player higher than Keith is Cody Franson.
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Franson’s 58 percent possession rat is currently way higher than Keith’s 52.3 percent mark, but both exceed the work of their teammates. Rutta is at 49.7 percent, Forsling is 48.0 and Kempny is at 52. Jordan Osterele has only appeared in four games with a Corsi of 56.4 percent. Brent Seabrook is also regressing in all facets of the game at a huge rate. His Corsi-for is 49.5 percent.
With all of that being said, I decided to look at Keith and his previous defensive teammates’ Corsi-for percentages since 2009-10.
Going back in time
I started in the 2009-10 because it started the Blackhawks’ championship era.
During the Blackhawks’ first Stanley Cup championship, the ‘Hawks had an NHL-best Corsi-for percentage at 56.5. Keith was at his best that season, as his percentage was 57.3. His fellow defensemen were also very good:
- Brent Seabrook-54.6
- Cam Barker– 56.7
- Brian Campbell-59.2
- Jordan Hendry-58.2
- Nick Boynton– 60.0
- Kim Johnsson-63.3
Boyton and Johnsson’s numbers are skewed because they only appeared in 15 games total. Barker was traded after 63 games.
The Blackhawks were the eighth seed in the playoffs and lost in seven games to Vancouver. Keith and the team took a step back in terms of Corsi-for percentage. The team was at 52.8 and good for third in the NHL. Keith was at 55.0. His fellow defensemen took a step back like Keith:
- Brent Seabrook-53.5
- Jordan Hendry-47.9
- Jassen Cullimore-49.3
- Nick Leddy-50.3
- John Scott-50.4
- Brian Campbell-54.9
- Niklas Hjalmarsson-50.9
- Chris Campoli-53.6
Campoli was only with the Blackhawks for 19 games that season. He was acquired at the trade deadline. You can see that Hendry and Cullimore brought the Corsi percentage down with their play.
The ‘Hawks were slightly better than the previous year but they fell in the NHL rankings. They fell to sixth with a 52.9 percent Corsi-formark. The season ended with another first-round exit, this one at the hands of the Phoenix Coyotes and Mike Smith. Keith was at 52.1 percent.
Da Windy City
Scott was traded that season, Oduya was acquired at the trade deadline and Montador played in 52 games.
The ‘Hawks were the best team in the NHL this season. They won their second Stanley Cup championship in this era and set the record with the most regular-season games without a regulation loss. The team was fourth in the NHL with a 54.1 percent Corsi-for mark. Keith was at at 52.3 percent. The rest of the defense was good.
- Brent Seabrook-52.0
- Michal Rozsival– 60.3
- Johnny Oduya-54.4
- Nick Leddy-55.7
- Shawn Lalonde-65.0
- Niklas Hjalmarsson-52.8
- Sheldon Brookbank-50.7
Shawn Lalonde played in one game that season.
The ‘Hawks made it back to the Western Conference finals and lost to the L.A. Kings in the seventh game. The seventh game went to overtime. The team was second in the NHL with a 55.4 percent Corsi-for mark. Keith’s percentage was 56.8.
- Brent Seabrook- 56.9
- David Rundblad-60.0
- Michal Rozsival-59.1
- Johnny Oduya-53.1
- Nick Leddy-57.4
- Mike Kostka-51.1
- Niklas Hjalmarsson-53.4
- Sheldon Brookbank-51.9
Rundblad appeared in five games and Kostka appeared in nine games.
The Blackhawks won their third Stanley Cup championship in six seasons. The ‘Hawks ranked second in the NHL with a 53.6 percent Corsi-for mark. Keith had a Corsi-for percentage 56.3.
- Brent Seabrook-52.8
- Trevor van Riemsdyk-59.7
- Kimmo Timonen-45.3
- David Rundblad-57.0
- Michal Rozsival-53.9
- Michael Paliotta-50.0
- Johnny Oduya-51.5
- Niklas Hjalmarsson-53.4
- Tim Erixon-57.1
- Klas Dahlbeck-44.8
- Kyle Cumiskey-52.7
- Adam Clendening-50.6
The ‘Hawks had a revolving door in the bottom pairing. Erixon appeared in eight games. Dahlbeck appeared in four games. Cumisky appeared in seven games. Clendening appeared in four games. Timonen was acquired at the trade deadline, only appearing in 16 games.
The Blackhawks’ Corsi-for percentage took a nosedive in 2015-16. It was at 50.6 percent, good for 16th in the NHL. Keith’s Corsi-for percentage for was 52.9 for the season.
- Brent Seabrook-48.2%
- Rob Scuderi-44.9
- David Rundblad-54.9
- Michal Rozsival-50.3
- Niklas Hjalmarsson-51.3
- Erik Gustafsson-54.0
- Christian Ehrhoff-52.6
- Trevor Daley-56.4
The ‘Hawks went through many defensemen. The sixth/seventh man went from Daley to Scuderi to Ehrhoff.
The ‘Hawks improved in terms of NHL rank, but their Corsi-for percentage went down 50.4. Keith had the worst Corsi-for percentage of his career at 50.7. It tied that of his rookie season. His fellow defensemen were also bad in terms of Corsi-for.
- Brent Seabrook-50.3
- Trevor van Riemsdyk-50.7
- Michal Rozsival-50.9
- Johnny Oduya-45.1
- Michal Kempny-56.3
- Niklas Hjalmarsson-49.5
- Gustav Forsling-48.5
- Brian Campbell-48.9
The ‘Hawks play better when they possess the puck more. That is why they are currently on the outside of the playoffs looking in. If you notice the trend, since 2014-15 the Blackhawks’ overall Corsi-for percentage has gone down each season.
The ‘Hawks’ defensemen Corsi-for percentage is also going down per season. This is bad sign for a team that still believes it is in a championship window. So Keith is of more value now than in years past because there are not other guys to pick up the slack.