Duncan Keith retires after 16 years as a great defenseman


Duncan Keith’s space on the ice was a no-fly zone
Picture: Getty (Getty Pictures)

The favored thesis on Duncan Keith, who reportedly is retiring after 16 seasons, was that he was a product of the “new” NHL, after the Nice Bettman Lockout II in 2005. The thought was that somebody his measurement would by no means have survived within the clutch n’ seize n’ hogtie period that got here earlier than, provided that he was barely 5-10 and 180 kilos. That’s not essentially true, as anybody with the instincts of Keith may have performed at any time, and he was actually no peach to forwards within the nook or in entrance of his personal internet (ask Daniel Sedin). He was no much less nice than a Pronger or a Stevens to play in opposition to, even when he didn’t incapacitate fairly as many.

However the flurry of guidelines modifications that opened up the sport after that lockout, particularly the elimination of the red-line and the two-line cross, meant that protection needed to be performed another way. In plenty of methods, Keith was a grouping of contradictions. He piled up plenty of factors with out being all that expert with the puck. He was one of many quickest skaters within the league whereas having one of many extra awkward and uneven wanting strides round. And he was a defenseman whose greatest work got here earlier than an opposing ahead even entered Keith’s defensive zone.

Since 2005, with the pink line gone, an increasing number of groups had been joyful and deliberate to streak by way of that impartial zone as a substitute of dumping the puck in. Stretch passes over half the size of the ice turned commonplace, and the sport sped up exponentially. When groups may gum up the impartial zone by way of traps and holding, forwards had been mainly sitting geese for any defenseman and in addition couldn’t generate a lot velocity to retrieve pucks that had been dumped in. It’s why they resorted to trapping, conceding that retrieval and attempting to drive turnovers later. With all of the momentum they might acquire with out a pink line, these races to the puck behind the aim line had been all of a sudden a viable solution to assault.

Keith, and the Hawks, rose to prominence by ensuring these races by no means occurred within the first place. Positive, groups may attempt to dump the puck in behind Keith, however he was too fast and would get there first each time. However Keith’s fundamental talent was having the foresight to leap up forward of his line, reduce off the play earlier than that dump-in or play on the blue line or that ahead may obtain a cross. He shrunk the ice, forcing wingers and facilities into selections far prior to they had been used to creating them. He may do this due to his restoration velocity, however he hardly ever wanted it. He was aided by the Hawks’ forwards and their dedication to backchecking again then. They might push opposing puck-carriers into the rocks that had been Duncan Keith. The prototypical play was Keith forcing a turnover simply outdoors his blue line, poking the puck forward to start out a rush, and ending up with a secondary help. Hell, Eddie Olczyk received him a second Norris Trophy by harping on these secondary assists on each nationwide broadcast he may (35 of his 55 assists in that 2013-2014 had been secondary). It’s how most of his factors had been accrued.

Keith’s masterpiece was the 2015 playoffs, the Hawks’ third Cup, when he averaged 31 minutes an evening within the postseason because the crew was decreased to utilizing solely 4 d-men per recreation due to Michal Rozsival’s damage and the inertness of Kimmo Timonen after his acquisition. Not solely did Keith flip his facet of the ice right into a DMZ, however he chipped in 21 factors in 23 video games together with the Cup-winner within the Ultimate. It stuffed his trophy case with one more trinket, a unanimous Conn Smythe to affix the 2 Norris Trophies, the 2 Gold Medals, and the three rings.

Finally, very similar to any star nook within the NFL, groups simply gave up attempting to enter the Hawks’ zone on Keith’s facet. It got here right down to getting previous Brent Seabrook on the opposite, which usually meant some extent of bodily punishment for whoever selected that process. It was the final word praise to Keith.

Keith was by no means Makar or Hedman, however he was the bridge to them. Positive, Nicklas Lidstrom was extra sleek and performed a positional recreation that squeezed off house with out anybody realizing it till he’d stripped the puck away. Keith’s was extra frantic, trying to primarily use jam or bump-n-run protection and finish issues as rapidly as potential. Besides Keith by no means needed to run, as a result of usually his first engagement gained possession with opposing forwards caught up the ice.

Finally, most groups within the NHL tried to defend that means, attempting to dam a sooner and sooner shifting river by way of the impartial zone. Now the very best d-men within the league can do this and carry the puck out of their zone on their very own, as there isn’t a lot time to finish a cross or ring-around.

Hockey nearly all the time strikes too quick and too randomly to be reduce down the best way Keith did. However watching these Hawks each evening it was plain to see how the ice was simply half the conventional measurement when Keith was on the market. Not as a result of he was a risk for a giant hit, although he may develop into unhinged with out an excessive amount of prodding. Opponents didn’t worry for his or her security a lot as worry that he would all the time flip the mess around with them unprepared for the Hawks forwards in open ice.

The most important praise you will get is when the opposite crew simply stops attempting you. 

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