Thursday night is going to feel awfully nostalgic for Blackhawks fans.
The organization will celebrate the career of Niklas Hjalmarsson.
And Duncan Keith will play his first game at the United Center as a visitor.
Keith’s Oilers teammates gave him a welcome “home” worthy of the hero he was in Chicago when he walked into the arena as a visitor for the first time yesterday.
And I’m sure the reception he receives at the United Center this evening will be equally stirring.
How do we wrap the impact Keith had on the ice for the Blackhawks?
Was Keith the best defenseman to ever wear a Blackhawks sweater? No, of course not. Who can forget those 26 glorious games Bobby Orr spent as a Blackhawk?
But was he the best to ever spend the majority of his Hall of Fame career as a Blackhawks defenseman?
Pierre Pilote won three Norris Trophies with Chicago. Chris Chelios won two here. So they have as many (more in the case of Pilote) individual awards as Keith’s two Norris Trophies from their time with the Blackhawks.
Bob Murray and Brent Seabrook are the only other defensemen to appear in more than 1,000 regular season games with the franchise. Keith holds the all-time record with 1,192 in the Indian head.
New Hall of Famer Doug Wilson (779) is the only defenseman to produce more points from the back end for the Blackhawks than Keith’s 625.
Among all-time Blackhawks defensemen, Keith ranks third in goals scored (105), second in assists (520), second in points, sixth in power play goals (30) and third in game-winning goals (18).
But numbers only tell part of the story with Keith.
We all will remember him losing most of his front teeth blocking a shot, only to return to the game as the Blackhawks won the Western Conference Final in 2010.
His Braveheart speeches are legendary.
He represented the Blackhawks and Canada in two gold medal-winning Olympics.
Since 2000-01, only four defensemen have won the Conn Smythe: Nicklas Lidstrom (2002), Scott Niedermayer (2007), Keith (2015) and Victor Hedman (2020).
His resume is arguably the best in the NHL over the past 15 years. He’s on an incredibly short list of defensemen with multiple gold medals, multiple Norris Trophies and a Conn Smythe. Only Lidstrom has done it in the last 30 years.
Duncan Keith will forever be one of — if not the — greatest defenseman in the history of the Chicago Blackhawks. His resume is unparalleled in franchise history. And, some time in the future, his No. 2 will join the other retired numbers in the rafters.