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The Awkwardness Of Duncan Keith

I suppose this is just going to be a normal thing, especially when the Hawks infiltrate Canada and Toronto specifically. But it was Duncan Keith’s turn to get the puff piece treatment, this time from Pierre LeBrun.

It would be extremely hard to believe, and to convince me, that this was Keith’s idea. Keith hates, hates, hates talking to the media, and pretty much hates everything that goes along with playing hockey except for the playing hockey part. It was LeBrun who first reported that the Hawks would go to Keith around the deadline to gauge whether he wanted to stay or go. So it makes sense the LeBrun would write the follow-up, which appears to be the opposite. Still, it’s hard to square some of what’s in here to what we saw last night, over the past few weeks, and over the whole season.

And some of this is weird:

“Last year it was a little bit hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel,” Keith said Wednesday after the morning skate. “This year there’s been a lot more positives. We’re in a playoff race right now. That’s exciting hockey for us right now. There’s been young guys that have taken steps this year and that’s a good thing. We need that around here.”

I mean, ok, but this is Keith who’s saying this. The same Keith who hasn’t hesitated to point out to the local media just how shit he thinks his team has been at points. That includes last week when he directly countered his coach to oppose the view that the Hawks had played well against Colorado and Dallas, two games they lost that pretty much ended their playoff hopes. So it’s hard to align, and it almost sounds like Keith playing the hits a bit to try ingratiate himself back with the front office. I don’t know that’s what it is, that’s just the feeling I get.

What I did nod my head in agreement with was Stan Bowman’s assertion that they would go to the four-five core players of yore and lay out their plan. I agree with this, and most do. They’ve earned the right, and they’ve all earned the right to opt-in or out. I feel like the conversation will sound different to Brent Seabrook than it will to Patrick Kane, but let’s run that kitten over when we get to it.

Of course, I also snicker when Bowman says, “They have a plan different from other organizations,” because A. his boss just said there’s no plan, but a process, and B. trying to make yourself sound smarter than other teams when you’re still out of the playoffs sounds like you’ve been huffing your own ass for too long. Which is a problem this organization has had for a while now.

“I feel we’ve made some good strides this year,” said Keith. “I still feel like there’s a lot of good things going on in Chicago. At the end of the day, there’s not a lot of teams that you really look at and think, ‘OK, they’re that much better than this team.’ So, I like it in Chicago, I like the group, I know we have to be better, but I’d like to be part of that.”

Again, this is contrary to the things Keith has let slip after games, which he’s either trying to walk back through a national guy or have it both ways. I’m not sure. But at the end of the day, here’s what I can’t get past:

 

That turnover. Yes, it’s incredibly stupid and petty to get worked up about one turnover in a season of 82 games. It’s probably even sillier to attach deeper meaning to it, and yet I can’t help it.

He was under no pressure. He knows better, and it’s not the kind of mistake that Keith has made most of the year. This one reeks of carelessness. This just reeks of someone who couldn’t be bothered. Maybe it was frustration that the Hawks had already given up three of a five-goal lead, and were under the kosh. Maybe he was frustrated it got to this point at all, and just let it out. And even if we grant him that, that’s the kind of thing Duncan Keith isn’t supposed to fall in for. He’s supposed to be above that and show his younger and less heralded teammates the better way.

This isn’t a player who had no choice, like Seabrook’s turnover mere seconds later. He’s slow and simply can’t get away from forecheckers or open up time for himself to make a pass. Keith can, and has, and should have. He just didn’t.

But like a lot of times this year, it just looks like Keith wasn’t as engaged. This is lazy, along with stupid. At best it’s totally flustered, which is exactly what Keith isn’t supposed to be. It’s basically what he’s never been until this season, or last season at worst.

So Keith’s claims that he likes what is going on here and wants to be a part of it is belied but what we see on the ice. It’s more than this one turnover. That one turnover just encapsulates everything we’ve seen this year. The two messages don’t square up. More often than not Keith has played like someone who doesn’t believe in what’s going on here, that maybe has thought about his future elsewhere, that either believes the changes made were mistakes, more changes need to be made, or both.

If Keith genuinely does want to be here, he’ll have to do a couple things. He’ll have to accept a new role, which he at least seems open to. He’ll have to accept what he can and can’t do anymore, which he’s been more reluctant to do. And he’ll also have to be focused and engaged for all 82, which he clearly has not been at all times this season.

The words are nice. They just don’t line up with what we see on the ice, which is the more important part.

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