Making The Case For Duncan Keith’s Third Norris Trophy

On Wednesday morning, TSN’s Ian Mendes tweeted the following statements:

Mendes, who covers Ottawa, is clearly making the case that not only is Brent Burns far from the predetermined lock to win the Norris but Mendes brings Erik Karlsson into the conversation as a potential winner.

Our question: where is Duncan Keith?

For the sake of keeping consistent with Mendes’ choice of statistics above, let’s compare Keith’s March numbers.

  • Duncan Keith: 11 GP, 1g, 7a, 8 pts, +9 rating, 24:54 TOI/gm
  • Erik Karlsson: 11 GP, 4g, 7a, 11 pts, +3 rating, 27:32 TOI/gm
  • Brent Burns: 11 GP, 0g, 4a, 4 pts, -1 rating, 25:01 TOI/gm

I’m not a huge fan of a one month sample size, though. So let’s back these numbers out to post All-Star Break, and we’ll include another potential finalist for the sake of building a field for discussion.

  • Erik Karlsson: 24 GP, 6g, 19a, 25 pts, +6 rating, 26:17 TOI/gm 
  • Duncan Keith: 21 GP, 2g, 15a, 17 pts, +12 rating, 25:16 TOI/gm
  • Brent Burns: 22 GP, 6g, 11a, 17 pts, +7 rating, 24:56 TOI/gm
  • Viktor Hedman: 21 GP, 8g, 11a, 19 pts, -1 rating, 23:27 TOI/gm

Keith has 35 even-strength points this season. By comparison, Burns (48) and Karlsson (40) have more, Hedman (33) has fewer.

Keith has 14 penalty minutes this season, on pace to be the best season of his Hall of Fame career; his career-low is 20 PIM during the 2014-15 season (80 games). Hedman (47), Burns (38) and Karlsson (22) all have more.

Chicago’s penalty kill ranks 26th in the NHL, while San Jose (11), Ottawa (13) and Tampa (16) have all performed better as units. Keith’s contributing 2:27 short-handed per night. Compare that to Karlsson (2:10), Burns (1:46) and Hedman (2:01). However, when we compare the total time on ice spent short-handed, Keith (179:37) is well ahead of Karlsson (156:50), Burns (130:02) and Hedman (139:42).

Keith’s 25:43 ATOI is his highest since the 2011-12 season. Sure, the Blackhawks added Johnny Oduya at the deadline. But let’s not forget that coach Joel Quenneville’s blue line this year has included Gustav Forsling (36 games), Michal Kempny (48 games), Michal Rozsival (20 games) and Trevor van Riemsdyk (49 games). Through Tuesday, Oduya has appeared in six games for Chicago.

Are we blinded to Keith’s quality of play because he’s a member of a dynasty in Chicago? Perhaps. But keep in mind that Keith is the only defenseman in Chicago to appear in all 73 games this season. Niklas Hjalmarsson, the best defenseman not-named-Keith in Chicago, has missed six games. Brent Seabrook and Brian Campbell have missed two each. And the best defensive forwards on the roster have missed significant time this year as well: Jonathan Toews (nine games missed), Marian Hossa (eight games missed) and Marcus Kruger (12 games missed).

The 2016-17 season is only the third time in his career Keith has reached the 50-point plateau. The other two instances – 2009-10 and 2013-14 – ended with him taking the Norris Trophy home.

10 thoughts on “Making The Case For Duncan Keith’s Third Norris Trophy

  1. Although not a huge fan of plus/minus, it is an indication of what happens on the ice in 5 on 5 play. If goals are the deciding factor, then Kieth will not win. But if assists and 5 on 5 team efficiency plays a big role (which it should) Kieth should be the favorite based on after break play.

    Kieth is one of my all time favorite players (been a Hawks fan since 67). He slugged it out down here in Norfolk, VA for over 150 games. He plays every night. He will finish his career in Chicago. His parents named him Duncan. But most of all he just hates to lose.

  2. The slow start by Dunc killed any buzz for him this year. Even his PR agent, Eddie O., was less blathering about him than normal. However, his resurgence is a direct tie to the Hawks play. (As it always has been.)

    The Hawks hopes in the playoffs, as usual, depend on his excellence. His recent play indicates he’s ready. Let’s hope his counterpart Seabrook picks up his pace in the last few games.

  3. His biggest problem is that casual fans don’t notice his excellence in the little things… positioning, stick checking, recognition. He’s had a fine season.

  4. They have a favourite or two and it’s really hard to change that… and points seem to be the defining attribute for the Norris. His ability to influence the game with his skating and use of stick is second to none.
    Kane has received no mention for the Hart-not saying he should win it as there are many worthy candidates, and I don’t think he’s quite there this year but no talk at all? Same with Coach Q year after year-the curse of having a really good team.

  5. Tab – excellent article. I’ve always felt that some of Dunc’s greatness has been overshadowed by all the attention on Toews and Kane. His consistent high level of play game after game, year after year is amazing. In one comparison with the other candidates, I would never consider a straight-up trade for any of them despite any age differences. I believe he will be the last Hawk to wear number 2.

  6. DK has character that not many people have. In his “we are not satisfied” interview, DK said flat out, The Stanley Cup trumps any and all individual awards.

    MS I agree, he will be the last Hawk to wear #2

  7. I’d love to see it but I think the chances are slim and none because the award has essentially become the scoring award for d-men with actual defensive play being nothing more than a tie breaker if scoring totals are close.

  8. Agree with Ebonyraptor but it should be the other way around in a just world: defensive play should be the main criterion with offensive contribution a tiebreaker with toi, short handed toi, low pims, etc being highly valued. It is a crime in my eyes to award a Norris to a guy like Karlsson who regularly gets walked by 2nd and 3rd tier/line players and often or very frequently coughs up the puck in his own zone or makes bad defensive decisions in when to pinch etc while a guy who contributes in all areas and is the number one guy on the number one team in championships this decade if not the number one guy in the league you would want on protecting a one goal lead in the final minute or double and triple shifting in extended overtime playoff periods with series or championship on the line for the next goal or out on a 3 on 5, arguably the most challenging spot a defenseman can be put into by his coach–a guy like Hjarm (not Keith) doesn’t even get a sniff at a Norris! Criminal!

  9. Kindly excuse the run on and on sentences above.

    My vote is for Keith (or Hjarm) for Norris.
    This may not have been Hjarms best season but often in the past the Norris has been awarded for past efforts, not current season results (similar to allstar spots often).

    Also, keith will be the last blackhawk to wear #2 guaranteed, just as Toews, Kane, Hossa, Seabrook, and maybe Crawford will be the final hawks to wear 19, 88, 81, 7, and 50.

  10. Final note. I have liked Burns all around game since first few years I watched him on Minnesota teams back with Gaborik. His offensive game showed spurts then but has exploded now and I feel in a lot of ways it has made him a worse defender than he was but with that said he is not in the class of shoddy defensive defenders like karlsson by any means and can be trusted in his own zone to make the right plays most of the time, unlike Karlsson.

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