It’s time now to move to reviewing the defense…I know, I know, I don’t want to remember either…
I honestly don’t know if Duncan Keith has morphed into a crotchety old man or a petulant toddler. Come to think of it, there’s a lot of similarities between the two so maybe either metaphor applies. Regardless, if there is one thing we learned about Duncan Keith it’s that when he doesn’t give a fuck he DOESN’T GIVE A FUCK. He should adjust his game to account for his decreasing speed as the game itself gets faster? DOESN’T GIVE A FUCK. He should make a concerted effort in a new defensive scheme that may not be totally in his wheelhouse but that’s how the coach wants it? DOESN’T GIVE A FUCK. Duncan Keith will do whatever he damn well pleases no matter how many bad turnovers it leads to. Let’s get to it:
28 GP – 6 G – 34 A – 40 P
49.7 CF% –46.4 xGF% [5v5]
It Comes with a Free Frogurt
Duncan Keith is not terrible and he wasn’t even close to being the worst defenseman on this team, let’s just get that out there right now. Did you even realize he had six goals this year? I, for one, did not. Looking up that stat was a surprise to me. But what matters more is that despite all the bullshit Keith managed a 50 CF% at evens (all situations), which isn’t too far off his average the last few years. Notably, that number jumps to a 53.8 CF% when he was paired with Henri Jokiharju, and HarJu’s CF% was actually higher without Keith so while that sounds concerning, i.e., Keith is dragging guys down, it actually suggests a workable way forward for an aging defenseman with a spiky attitude.
Pair Keith with someone faster who can get to the corners in ways he no longer can, and have the elder statesman act as more the free safety. His zone starts were quite sheltered again this year (58 oZS%), so keep that up and the decline can be managed. It’s probably pretty obvious that I think Keith and Jokiharju should be a package deal because I still think it’s awfully stupid to NOT have Jokiharju here when the blue line is so rancid, but even if it’s not HarJu the team can and should position Keith to use what he has left to contribute as best he can. That’s assuming Keith goes along with the plan, which is the real issue.
The Frogurt is Also Cursed
Basically the question is not CAN Keith play adequately, it’s IF he will choose to do so. Part of this is of course influenced by what the coach does, and for shits and giggles we’ll stick with it being Coach Cool Youth Pastor since by all indications he’ll be behind the bench for the foreseeable future. If Colliton does dumb shit like pair IDGAF Keith with I-Can’t-Skate-Upright Seabrook, we’re going to have a problem. For comparison, Keith and Nachos has an xGA of 20.8 at evens…that number was 17.2 when Keith was paired with Jokiharju, despite Keith having similar ice time with both. Again, this doesn’t mean that Jokiharju is the answer to everything that ails Keith, but it illustrates the point that Seabrook is still not the answer when it comes to who his partner should be.
Pairing him with Gustafsson shouldn’t really be a viable plan either—Gus just isn’t good enough defensively, so even if you give them all the offensive zone starts possible, the risk of what happens once the puck gets past the offensive blue line is terrifying. Who else is there? Forsling? Bitch please, he needs to be fired into the sun. Dahlstrom? Almost the same. Murphy? Not if Our Large Irish Son is staying with the dungeon shifts, for all the reasons we just described about Keith.
But you know all about the personnel problems…Keith needs someone who can be a complementary partner, we get it. At the end of the day, though, whether he gets a complementary partner or is stuck with the jamokes on this current roster, Keith is going to have to either 1) agree to play Colliton’s man-to-man system, should he choose to stick with it, or 2) at least raise his give-a-shit meter to about 7.5 regardless of what system he (Keith) decides he’s going to play on a given night.
We saw Duncan Keith make more lazy, careless plays this year than I can ever remember—bad turnovers that weren’t lack of skill, but lack of caring what happened. He called out his coach after the Hawks fumbled basically their last chances at squeaking into the playoffs, and while that is part of why we love him, you can see from an organizational standpoint how that’s a problem. Yes, he kinda sorta backtracked and said he wanted to be a part of whatever renaissance the Hawks may be attempting, but it’s hard to know if he really meant that or was just covering his ass with the front office.
What was clear was that Keith didn’t care to make the level of effort that is and will continue to be needed with a defense this crappy. He doesn’t have to become some media-friendly talking head; that’s not who he is or who should try to be. But he will have to contribute night in and night out both to make his remaining skills worthwhile, and hopefully to develop some of the green defensemen the system is so full of right now.
If he can’t or won’t, then the Hawks have to look at trading him while his contract still isn’t a Seabrook-level albatross for another team. And while that may make sense from a business standpoint, it would suck goat balls for the rest of us who want to see him age gracefully because we know, we could never have done any of this without him.
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