Jul 13, 2021 4 min read

Duncan Keith's drive made him a Blackhawks legend

Duncan Keith's drive made him a  Blackhawks legend

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Duncan Keith's trade to Edmonton on Monday was not a surprise. The deal with the Oilers had been rumored for days and the prevailing thought the past few years had been that No. 2 would eventually leave to chase one more Cup elsewhere.

Edmonton probably isn't the best place to do that, but the move grants Keith another late-career wish just days before his 38th birthday: The ability to play closer to where his eight-year-old son Colton lives.

So after 16 Hall of Fame seasons on the West Side, Keith asked the only franchise he's ever known to deal him.

The Hawks complied.

It was a deal that made perfect sense — and not just from a hockey standpoint.

Yes, the Hawks will receive 24-year-old Caleb Jones, a defenseman who still possesses a little bit of upside and, oh hey, also has a more talented brother who plays on the blueline and wants out of Columbus.

They also get a conditional third-round pick in next year's draft and, perhaps most importantly, full relief from the last two years of Keith's deal.

That's another $5.5 million back in the till, which every Hawks fan should send Edmonton GM Ken Holland a thank-you note for by week's end.

But Keith's end in Chicago makes the most sense because it was as transactional as his career was here.

It was a business move for an athlete who was never about anything else.

And I say that as a compliment because I don't think we've ever had an athlete of Keith's level who was more singularly into his sport and peformance. Distraction wasn't a word that seemed to be in his vocabulary.

Keith didn't chase endorsements, the lights of the television cameras or any of the other spoils that come with being a legendary athlete in this town. Only a seldom-used Instagram account provided concrete proof that he ever took his skates off to have a life away from the ice.

Did it hurt Keith's overall profile? Most assuredly. I've always been a little shocked we don't see more No. 2s in the stands when it became clear by the second Cup that it would one day hang in the rafters.

I'm also not sure Keith ever got full credit from league writers who needed 20 playoff points and over 30 minutes of ice time a night to finally give him the Conn Smythe in 2015 when he could have easily won it in either of the first two Cup runs.

But Keith knows the effort he turned in.

And we know what we saw.

When future Hawks fans ask about Keith, it'll be easy to point toward that jaw-dropping resume. Three Stanley Cups, two Norris Trophies, two Olympic gold medals and the second-most games played in franchise history, behind only Stan Mikita.

But even all those bullet points won't paint the full picture, even if we throw in the seven teeth lost against the Sharks in the 2010 Western Conference Final clincher.

We were all lucky to be present for the Duncan Keith experience. If blueline partner Brent Seabrook was the team's frame, Keith was its motor, an unending source of energy and vision. His presence was the reason the young and fast Hawks could spend an entire game with the puck.

There's a good chance I'll watch hockey for the rest of my life and never see anyone as creative or efficient as Keith. Even in moments of improvisation, he rarely wasted a stride or stick movement.

Watching Keith, you understood that his hockey IQ commanded a knowledge of the game's trigonometry that was unparalleled. Paired with an unmatched work ethic in the weight room, it put him far beyond past fellow d-men with superior physical gifts and pedigree.

But all good things must come to an end.

The Hawks already had an emotional goodbye video ready, a package that included Keith showing his big heart with Cammy Babiarz in the best "What's Your Goal?" video.

Keith's departure leaves Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane as the lone championship-era survivors, a predictable ending given their contract lengths, relative ages and spots on the marquee.

It also leaves us with the knowledge of the type of No. 1 defenseman the Hawks will need to find if they want to add a seventh Stanley Cup banner

But matching Duncan Keith will be a near-impossible task for future Hawks d-men.

And the truth is that it'd take someone with Keith's rare qualities to even try.

Trivia

Name the d-man who was drafted by the Blackhawks in the first round of the 2002 draft and played a total of 22 games for the team.

  1. Matt McClure says goodbye to the best d-man in Hawks history. "Chris Chelios might have been meaner, Doug Wilson may have scored more ... and Pierre Pilote might have been more graceful, but none of them did it all at once for so long, and when it mattered most." Faxes From Uncle Dale
  2. Jim Margalus takes a look at the eight straight pitchers the Sox drafted on Monday. Sox Machine
  3. Michael Cerami runs down the Cubs' haul which started with a second-round selection. Bleacher Nation
  4. Every Sky player except for Olympian Stefanie Dolson is off for the next month. What are players planning on doing? Tribune
  5. How Chicago citizens fought to defeat plans for The Crosstown Expressway 50 years ago. Streetsblog Chicago

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