As the oldest player on the Blackhawks roster, what can we expect from Duncan Keith in 2019-20?
To make the best-educated guess, I’ll look back on his past three seasons, find the averages for his time on ice (TOI), points, goals, and assists to project what his numbers could look like next season.
Obviously, the role of a defenseman is to defend, and point production doesn’t necessarily prove how good a defenseman is overall, but it is still highly important and becoming even more important as the role of a defenseman shifts and changes in the modern NHL.
Duncan Keith’s Work Load
Keith has put in a lot of hard minutes over his 14 NHL seasons with the Chicago Blackhawks, leading the team in minutes played in nine of the last 10 seasons.
He had the third-most minutes in 2015-16 due to an injury that limited him to only 67 games. (Data Courtesy Natural Stat Trick)
In comparison to the rest of the NHL, Keith’s ability to play big minutes is matched by very few. He has played the fifth-most minutes by any player in the NHL over the last three seasons.
Now, this can be seen in two different ways. One being he is a workhorse and drives the bus for the Blackhawks, and the other being the Blackhawks lacking serious defensive depth.
They have had to rely on Keith for far too long. To be honest, it’s probably a little bit of both.
Duncan Keith has been a major component of the Chicago Blackhawks’ success during the last decade and he will still be counted on in the years to come.
Now, to look back on each of the past three seasons and see how Keith faired in an effort to predict his point production in 2019-20.
Duncan Keith in 2018-19
Keith played all 82 games for the Blackhawks last season. He averaged 23.01 TOI putting up a total of 40 points. Never much of a goal scorer, he contributed with just 6 goals, but ever the playmaker, as he dished out 34 assists.
Lastly, a statistic that seems to be on its way out with the rise of analytics, Keith finished with a +13 rating.
Whether to put too much weight into this statistic or not, it is impressive considering the Blackhawks, as a team, gave up the second-most goals in the league.
An intriguing number for Keith this past season was his penalty minutes. Keith racked up 70 PIM, mostly because of taking two major penalties. His 70 PIM is the most he’s had since the 2006-07 season.
Another factor to this many minutes in the box may be due to a loss of foot speed, causing him to slow players down in other ways in an NHL that gets faster and faster every year.
Duncan Keith in 2017-18
Two seasons ago, Keith once again played all 82 regular-season games. He averaged 23.05 TOI while only contributing 32 points, his lowest point total since the lockout-shortened 2012-2013 season.
Scoring only 2 goals, his fewest goals since his second season in the league, he had a respectable 30 assists.
A glaring deficit for Keith in this season was an abysmal -29 rating, the worst of his career and the ninth-worst by any player in the league.
Duncan Keith in 2016-17
Keith had arguably one of his most productive seasons in 2016-17, finishing fourth in Norris Trophy voting. He averaged an out-of-this-world 25.37 TOI.
With all that ice time, he had 53 points (in 80 games), the third-most of his career. While only scoring 6 goals, he finished the season with 47 assists, the third most by a defenseman in the NHL.
Even though it was one of his best seasons in terms of points, maybe the most impressive number was only serving 16 PIM, the fewest of his career.
What to Expect from Duncan Keith in 2019-20
Time On Ice
Starting with TOI, Keith’s average has dropped by 2 minutes and 36 seconds since the 2016-17 season. It may not seem like a lot, but in hockey, it is quite substantial
If an average NHL shift is around 45 seconds, that’s around three shifts less per game.
Bare with me for a minute, as I explain how I project his TOI next season. First, I found the difference between his TOI during each of the past three seasons and it averaged out to a decrease of 1.18.
If he finished last season with 23.01, his projected TOI for 2019-20 will be 21.83. This seems like a fair number to expect with the additions of Calvin de Haan and Olli Maatta this offseason ready to take up more minutes.
Looking at his point totals, Keith averaged 41.66 points over the past three seasons, which incredibly, is right on his career average of 41.64.
This is a tough category to project, because with less ice time, obviously, his point production should see a decrease as well.
This one is more of a shot in the dark, but if he somehow manages to eclipse the 35 point mark, it will be a win in my book.
Goals and Assists
Goals and assists will be much easier to project for a couple of reasons. Keith has never been a goalscorer (his career-high is 14 in the 2009-10 season), so I don’t expect him to somehow start now.
He has averaged a mere 4.67 goals a year over the past three seasons. Given the fact the Blackhawks, as a team, had the eighth-most goals (267) in the 2018-19 season and should see a similar result next season, I’ll be nice and say Keith can contribute 5 goals. You’re welcome, Duncan.
In regards to assists, this is where Keith has never seemed to struggle. With a career-high 55 assists (which he has accomplished twice in his career), and an average of 37 assists over the past three seasons, it isn’t that unlikely for him to be close to that number again.
If I have him slated to score 5 goals and a total of 35-40 points, I’ll project him to finish with 33 assists, just below his career average of 34.6.
Keith’s Off-Ice Contributions
Where Duncan Keith will make the biggest impact will be his role on the team off the ice.
He has been a leader with the Chicago Blackhawks through their 3 most recent Stanley Cups (I had to mention it at some point) and has gained invaluable experience playing in high-pressure situations.
While the young crop of Blackhawks defensemen is on the horizon, awaiting the changing of the guard, Keith is the perfect role model for these players to learn what it means to be an elite NHL defenseman. His work ethic is second to none.
When players coming into the league see a veteran working just as hard, or harder than anyone on the team, they will follow suit.
Expect Duncan Keith to have a great season in 2019-20, and remember that his greatest value may not always be visible to fans, but most definitely will be evident to players in the Blackhawks’ locker room. Go Hawks.