It’s no secret that Duncan Keith isn’t the same defenseman he used to be. He’s 35 and entering his 14th NHL season, which is pretty remarkable, to say the least. However, over time, he has declined and it will continue.
Duncan Keith is still a fan favorite considering he’s been with this team through thick and thin. He has been the hero for the Chicago Blackhawks numerous times in his career, but now he’s seen as the villain in some cases.
Hear me out, Keith really isn’t as bad as people portray him to be. Yes, he’s somewhat slowing down as the NHL is speeding up, but it doesn’t make him a bad guy. This season, fans put Keith on blast for not showing up when needed and for being “mediocre” defensively. However, what If I told you Keith is actually progressing from his horrific season in 2017-18?
Misconceived Blame Sent His Way
Keith had an awful year in 2017-18. In a forgettable season, Keith had a miserable 2 goals and 30 assists in 82 games, while posting a career-low minus-29. This is just a year after finishing fourth in voting for the James Norris Memorial Trophy, for best defenseman in 2016-17. It was a year full of blame, and he rightfully deserved it.
However, the 2018-19 season was actually a step up for Keith. In a full 82 game season, he posted 6 goals and 34 assists for 40 points on the year, as well as a weak overtime goal against the Colorado Avalanche. Not to mention, he improved his plus/minus, achieving a plus-13.
Yes, Duncan Keith had bad games. Which player didn’t this season? With the coaching shift, Keith had to adjust to a new gameplan with Jeremy Colliton. He was paired with Erik Gustafsson for most of the year as the teams’ top defensive line, which was nothing short of putting numbers on the board.
To say Keith played terribly would be an exaggeration. As previously mentioned, he’s 35. Any significant comeback from the 2017-18 season is crucial for his play, as it certainly affected his confidence.
The biggest worry about his game right now should be his average ice-time. In the past three seasons, Keith’s ATOI has dramatically gone down by 2:36. This season specifically, he averaged 23:01, which was a 49-second drop from the 2017-18 season. That’s big, considering Keith has long been the Blackhawks’ top defender for a number of years, logging 25-plus minutes of average ice-team per season during the Stanley Cup contending years.
Overall, Keith isn’t as bad as people say he is. He’s doing his best to come back and return to his elite form. With that being said, he’s certainly good trade bait. Proving to be able to still log 23-plus minutes and score 40-points in a season as a veteran is remarkable, and he’d aid a contending team. However, it remains to be seen whether or not the Blackhawks would trade a beloved player like Keith.
In summary, I’m giving Keith a player grade of C+. He wasn’t phenomenal this year, but the age factor, as well as his diminished ice-time, have proven he isn’t the player he used to be. Nonetheless, Duncan Keith still has our respect.