Over the next five weeks, CSNChicago.com Blackhawks Insider Tracey Myers and PGL host Chris Boden will evaluate the 2011-12 performance of each player on the Hawks roster. One breakdown will occur every weekday in numerical order.
Duncan Keith played in 74 games in 2011-12, scoring four goals with 36 assists (40 points) and a plus-15 rating. One of his goals and 12 assists came on the power play. In 26 minutes and 54 seconds of ice time per game, Keith had 121 blocked shots and was credited with 45 hits. In the playoffs, Keith had zero goals and one assist with seven blocked shots and finished a plus-1 in the six-game series vs. Phoenix.
Boden's take: He set the bar so high in his magnificent Norris Trophy-winning season that it's almost been a curse the past two years. Rather unfairly, that also puts a greater focus on the 11 years and 61 million remaining on his contract. While Keith's offensive numbers have shrunk since that Olympic Gold and Cup-winning campaign, I feel this year was better overall than 2010-11, especially in his own end where he seemed less prone to turning the puck over than a year ago as the team's ice-time workhorse following that short summer.
Let's also remember as integral a part of the title team as he was, he was also helped by the depth of the cast around him. One offensive issue he's continued to run into is opponents blocking his shooting lanes. As an alternate captain, he's been a good leader by all accounts both in the locker room and facing the media through good times and bad.
Myers' take: If anyone was going to benefit from the long offseason entering 2011-12, it was going to be Keith, right? Well, yes and no.
At times, Keith was showing that strong play that earned him the Norris. But at other times, Keith was still struggling. Be it turnovers or his elbow to Daniel Sedin's head, Keith made his share of costly mistakes. Part of it was Keith, once again, playing a ton along the blue line. The moves made last offseason to add defensive depth didn't work out so well -- Sami Lepisto and Sean O'Donnell were onoff scratches and Steve Montador was hurt for the final two months of the season. But Keith was at his best when he and Brent Seabrook were together again toward the end of the regular season. Hey, familiarity breeds confidence.
Chris: Keith welcomes the workload. His unique lung capacity allows it, and I wouldn't be surprised if that continues next season. But as he enters his eighth season and turns 29, I'm curious to see if he'd inch closer to the Norris level from two years ago if 2-3 minutes of average ice time were shaved off. More than one long-time NHL observer has told me Keith shouldn't be leaned upon on the power play, in addition to his penalty-killing and top-pair duties.
Maybe the Hawks' offseason priority should be targeting a top-four defenseman with size, who has a cannon from the point for the power play and a nasty streak to help Seabrook clear the doorstep for the second pair and on the kill.
Tracey: Keith's currently at the World Championships in Finland; but after that he'll get another offseason of good rest. Keith could get back to his strong play again next season, but truly adding depth to that blue line would help him. Whenever someone gets hurt or fails to carry their weight, it usually falls on Keith to take up the extra minutes. That can't happen again. Give him a normal workload, and he should be steady again.
How do you feel about this evaluation? As always, be sure to chime in with your thoughts by commenting below and check out the highlights above for some of Keith's best games of the season.
Up next: Niklas Hjalmarsson