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Do People Realize How Good Duncan Keith Is?

Duncan Keith won the Norris Trophy as best defenceman in the NHL this season.  That makes it clear that he is a pretty good player, but just how good is he?

There is a thread up on hfboards about the top 10 defencemen in hockey and many do not rank Keith at the top.  He is often third, fourth or even fifth on the lists people offer.  The Las Vegas odds for the Norris Trophy had Duncan Keith in a distant second place.  There is a considerable lack of respect for him and a failure to pick him as the best defenceman in hockey.

This lack of respect is not deserved.  Duncan Keith had a tremendous season in 2009/10.  He was the top puck possession player in the league, as is shown by his Corsi rating both before and after adjustment.  Duncan Keith was the highest scoring defenceman at even strength in 2009/10.  Duncan Keith was a candidate some backed for the Conn Smythe Trophy. There should be little question that he was the NHL’s best defenceman last season.  He was the best one by a significant margin.

It can be argued that was only one season and may not be repeatable, but at age 27 he is likely moving into the prime years of his career, so that may not be a good bet.

Who are these defencemen that are rated above Keith?  Several of them are older players who are beginning to show signs of decline.  Nicklas Lidstrom, Chris Pronger and Zdeno Chara tend to top this list.  These players are all still top defencemen, but it is a stretch to call any of them the best one in the league right now.  The other defenceman often picked ahead of Keith is a projection.  Drew Doughty is a very good young defenceman who is only 20 years old and has only played two seasons in the NHL.  They have been very good seasons, as is shown by his Norris Trophy nomination this year, but neither have been as good as Keith’s seasons in the past two years.  If Doughty is yet to outplay Keith, it is odd to rank him above Keith.

I pick Duncan Keith as the third best player in hockey today.  I rank him below Alexander Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby.  I think he is clearly the best defenceman in hockey today.  I think he is like Nicklas Lidstrom in that his game is so smooth that it is often possible to overlook all of the things he does.  Lidstrom had won three Norris Trophies and been runner up to the three before that by 2003.  It took a run of that quality before some people began to realize just how good he is.  Duncan Keith is similar in many ways and he may have to win multiple Norris trophies before people start to realize that he is clearly the best defenceman of the era.

Duncan Keith has all of the tools and all of the ability to be one of the all time great defencemen.  He is well on his way.  His 2009/10 season was an outstanding one, where he was the top defenceman in the league by a significant margin.  Fans around the league have been very slow to realize this.

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Comments

George Malik's avatar

Duncan Keith’s definitely among the league’s best.  I didn’t think that hockey fans assumed otherwise….and I’m a Wings fan saying that.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 07/29/10 at 02:45 PM ET

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considerable lack of respect for him

So there’s a lack of respect for him because most people in the hockey world only acknowledge that he’s one of the best defensemen in the league?

What a subject worthy of writing about.

Posted by Garth on 07/29/10 at 02:51 PM ET

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Doughty is just as good as Keith, though admittedly his style of play was more spectacular. Watching the Olympics with both hockey fans and casual observers, it was Doughty who stood out to all of them as the outstanding defender on Team Canada. Doesn’t necessarily mean he was better, but there’s no massive gulf between Doughty and Keith.

He was the top puck possession player in the league, as is shown by his Corsi rating both before and after adjustment.  Duncan Keith was the highest scoring defenceman at even strength in 2009/10

Even the adjusted Corsi numbers don’t fully avoid taking the quality of teamates into account (much easier to hold possession with four good players out there, than four bad ones); though a more insightful statistic than unadjusted Corsi, it simply isn’t a good enough justification, on its own, for your argument. And how many of Keith’s points came from passing the puck to players like Kane, Toews, and Hossa, all of whom are adept at creating their own opportunities (or chances for teammates). Compare with Doughty having Anze Kopitar, an off-form Frolov, and little else to inflate his point totals.

Keith is a very good d-man, and is one of the best of his generation - but Doughty is very very close if not equally good, at the age of 20. For an NHL defenseman to be that good, at that age, smells strongly of generational talent. The last player to get onto an NHL all-star team at the end of the season at the same age was Raymond Bourque - who Doughty, at this stage seems fairly comparable to. Keith, by contrast, has had one very very good season, and is already at his peak - comparable more to Rob Blake or Chris Chelios at the same age.

I pick Duncan Keith as the third best player in hockey today.  I rank him below Alexander Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby

Henrik Sedin (league MVP and Pearson Trophy winner), Jonathan Toews (captain and playoff MVP of the Blackhawks, youngest ever member of the Triple Gold Club), Chris Pronger (no longer at his peak, not a popular player, but a pure warrior, probably still the most feared player in the NHL) and the aforementioned Doughty would also be in that equation - mind you, I’ll be honest and say that, though I went out thinking I could find a much longer list of candidates, you are certainly correct to say that Keith is one of the NHL’s top few players, and that fans haven’t yet come to terms with that - or I hadn’t, anyway!

Posted by fcjbencard on 07/29/10 at 03:03 PM ET

PuckStopsHere's avatar

So there’s a lack of respect for him because most people in the hockey world only acknowledge that he’s one of the best defensemen in the league?

When Keith is clearly the best defenceman in the league and people fail to notice it and only see him as fourth or fifth best, then he doesn’t get the respect he deserves.

Posted by PuckStopsHere on 07/29/10 at 03:07 PM ET

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When Keith is clearly the best defenceman in the league and people fail to notice it and only see him as fourth or fifth best, then he doesn’t get the respect he deserves.

He won the Norris trophy.

And he is “clearly” the best IN YOU OPINION, which you don’t really back up by much.  You can’t simply dismiss the fact that he’s had ONE great year.  Yeah, YOU think he he might be moving into his prime and he probably is, but the NHL awards are chock full of names engraved on them that were one-season wonders.  You can’t blame people for wanting to wait for a SECOND outstanding season before deciding he’s one of the best. 

Why wasn’t there a bidding war for Michael Leighton?  Why weren’t teams falling over themselves to give Niemi an offer sheet?  Why do people still doubt Ovechkin even though he’s won numerous individual awards?

You can’t get mad at people for not assuming he’s going to be the best next year just because you do.

Lastly, why bring up Lidstrom?  All it does is cement the case AGAINST you.  Lidstrom is one of the best defensemen to EVER play the game and, as you say, he might only have started to be recognized as such after his THIRD Norris win, so why is it disrespectful to not automatically anoint Keith as the best defenseman in hockey when he’s only won one?

Keith is still young and people give him a LOT of respect.  Just because it’s not unanimous amongst the millions of NHL fans doesn’t mean he’s being disrespected.  Lots of people have lots of reasons, beyond simply stats, for thinking the way they do.  It’s not because of a lack of respect that people don’t rank Keith above Lidstrom, it’s that Lidstrom has been consistantly an elite defenseman for a DECADE and proven over and over that he’s the best defenseman of our generation, and you don’t simply sweep him aside because Duncan Keith won ONE Norris trophy.

Posted by Garth on 07/29/10 at 03:31 PM ET

PuckStopsHere's avatar

You can’t blame people for wanting to wait for a SECOND outstanding season before deciding he’s one of the best. 

So now you are saying that Duncan Keith is not one of the best yet?  in your previouis comment you said he is.  Do you take it back?

People’s opinions on players are often behind reality.  They don’t decide somebody is the best until they have proven it multiple times and may even be on their way down from their peak.

Who would you consider a better defenceman than Keith today?

Lastly, why bring up Lidstrom

I bring up Lidstrom because he was the last player to clearly be the best defenceman in hockey by as big a margin as Keith currently holds.  It is an interesting comparison.  Lidstrom was the otp defenceman in hockey for years before people came around to realizing it.  Keith looks the same.

Lidstrom is clearly not the best defenceman in hockey anymore.  Clearly he is still very good, but he won’t win another Norris Trophy.  That is clear from watching him.  It is a showing of how great a player he is that we even have to state that he won’t win anymore Norris Trophies now that he is 40 years old.

Lidstrom is one of the best defensemen to EVER play the game and, as you say, he might only have started to be recognized as such after his THIRD Norris win, so why is it disrespectful to not automatically anoint Keith as the best defenseman in hockey when he’s only won one?

It was disrespectful of Lidstrom that people otok so long to realioze how good he was.  Keith is going down the same path.

YOU do not realize how good Duncan Keith is.  Your comments clearly show it.

Posted by PuckStopsHere on 07/29/10 at 03:39 PM ET

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I think it’s more accurate to say Duncan Keith was the best defenceman in hockey last year—as evidenced by the fact that he, you know, won that award that is given to the best defenceman in hockey.

But to automatically vault him above Lidstrom, Chara and Pronger because of that one year is kind of dumb. And you subtly agree with me when you place Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin above Sedin, despite the fact that Sedin won the Hart and Pearson this year, marking him as the best player in the league.

So you see, you both commit a logical fallacy in your original post and then reinforce that fallacy by doing the exact same thing you’re railing against when you talk about forwards.

In closing, I love me some Duncan Keith, and last season he was the best defenceman in the league. That doesn’t automatically give him a pass to the top of the list—unless your list is solely based on last season’s statistics. And if it is, then he already got his respect with, you know, that trophy thing he won.

Posted by Jayo on 07/29/10 at 03:42 PM ET

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A whole post starting with “there is a thread up on hfboards” and how it may not reflect reality. I’m shocked. Shocked, I tell you.

Posted by Snap Wilson on 07/29/10 at 03:46 PM ET

PuckStopsHere's avatar

I think it’s more accurate to say Duncan Keith was the best defenceman in hockey last year—as evidenced by the fact that he, you know, won that award that is given to the best defenceman in hockey.

But to automatically vault him above Lidstrom, Chara and Pronger because of that one year is kind of dumb.

Any reasonable projection of the players you name leaves Keith ahead of players like Lidstrom, Chara and Pronger.  Those players you name are on the downsides of great careers and Keith is on the upside.  Even if you imagine Keith might regress a bit from a career year (not a projection that I would agree with), you have to imagine that 30-something and 40 year old defenders will regress too and at a faster rate.

Keith is ahead of those defencemen you bring up because he performed better than them in the most recent season (or longer in the case of Pronger) and because any logical projection keeps him well ahead in the future.

Posted by PuckStopsHere on 07/29/10 at 03:47 PM ET

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The article you linked to about

“The Las Vegas odds for the Norris Trophy had Duncan Keith in third place.”

says:

Drew Doughty(notes), Los Angeles Kings — 1/2

Duncan Keith(notes), Chicago Blackhawks — 11/4

Mike Green(notes), Washington Capitals — 3/1

I don’t see how 11/4 is worse than 3/1, so he was second place.  And it was not actually Las Vegas because the article was quoting bodog, an off-shore bookmaker.  I don’t these award bets are popular enough for the odds not to be determined by a small number of gamblers.  Why would anyone bet on Doughty at 1/2?  The site probably had accepted a lot of money wagered on Doughty and was trying to balance the action.  And Keith was still second place, not third there.

I found it really interesting that anyone is arguing that Keith doesn’t get the respect he deserves.  The vast majority of hockey fans consider him the best right now.  Even the thread you mentioned I saw Keith on top of the list more than any other player from different posters, and a lot of posters specifically stated that the top 10 were not in order.

Posted by Kel on 07/29/10 at 05:49 PM ET

PuckStopsHere's avatar

Kel

You have a failure in basic math.  Green was at 11 to 4.  If he was at 12 to 4 odds, this would be equivalent to the 3 to 1 odds that Keith was given.  Green had better odds than Keith.

Posted by PuckStopsHere on 07/29/10 at 05:52 PM ET

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I meant worse in terms of being ranked as a worse player, PSH.  Green had better odds in the sense that a wager on him pays more in winnings (if won), which means Green was considered a less likely candidate to win, which means Green was considered a worse player.  And Keith would be second place no matter which meaning you want to ascribe to “better odds”.  He was 11/4 out of 1/2, 11/4, and 3/1.  There is no failure in basic math, only failure in your part to admit any mistake, however obvious.

Posted by Kel on 07/29/10 at 06:03 PM ET

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FYI, PSH wrote “The Las Vegas odds for the Norris Trophy had Duncan Keith in third place”  It was obvious wrong considering the odds:

Drew Doughty(notes), Los Angeles Kings — 1/2

Duncan Keith(notes), Chicago Blackhawks — 11/4

Mike Green(notes), Washington Capitals — 3/1

Posted by Kel on 07/29/10 at 06:05 PM ET

PuckStopsHere's avatar

The odds are longer (payout is bigger) for Duncan Keith than it is for Mike Green.

Consider a $4 bet.  Green pays $11 if he wins.  Keith pays $12.

Posted by PuckStopsHere on 07/29/10 at 06:06 PM ET

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Again, straight from the article you linked to:

Drew Doughty(notes), Los Angeles Kings — 1/2

Duncan Keith(notes), Chicago Blackhawks — 11/4

Mike Green(notes), Washington Capitals — 3/1

Duncan Keith is 11/4, Green is 3/1.  Not the other way round as suggested by you.

Posted by Kel on 07/29/10 at 06:07 PM ET

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In other words,

“Consider a $4 bet.  Green pays $11 if he wins.  Keith pays $12. “

is false based on the link you provided.  The truth is

“Consider a $4 bet.  KEITH pays $11 if he wins.  GREEN pays $12. “

Posted by Kel on 07/29/10 at 06:09 PM ET

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and what’s the odds that PSH will admit he made a mistake?

Posted by Kel on 07/29/10 at 06:13 PM ET

PuckStopsHere's avatar

Sorry Kel

You are correct.  I had their odds reversed in my mind.

Posted by PuckStopsHere on 07/29/10 at 06:13 PM ET

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Finally.  Thanks for recognizing that.  Mistakes happen.  And I usually don’t make a comment claiming that someone has made a mistake without checking the facts carefully.

Posted by Kel on 07/29/10 at 06:29 PM ET

Chris from NOHS's avatar

Issue #1) You just claimed that, despite being named as the NHL’s best defenseman as the Norris trophy winner, because a few morons on a dubious message board picked him only in the top five, this means that there is a considerable lack of respect for Keith.  You will never have a unanimous opinion from random fans. 

Issue #2) You are using one year to state that he is the best.  He was the best this year.  But next?  Perhaps.  He’s got a good case and it is very possible it will be true. 

But..

Maybe he had a just a great year this year.  Maybe his confidence was higher than normal with the team he had around him.  Maybe he was getting laid more at home.  Maybe he was lucky.  Maybe he had the right D partner. 

Or maybe he is the best.  In your mind, you only have to show it for one year.  For others, maybe you need to be the best more than once to earn that title. 

Best the best is subjective.  Simply put.

Posted by Chris from NOHS from Columbus, OH/Grand Rapids, MI on 07/29/10 at 11:27 PM ET

PuckStopsHere's avatar

It goes beyond this year alone.  I would argue that Keith produced the most “win shares” in the past two years combined as well.

The problem is nobody is capable of naming a defenceman close to his prime years who is more likely to have as big a year as Keith is this year.

Keith had a huge year on defence this year.  Few recognize this.  This season is one the best defensive performances in aa long time.  Most seasons do not have a defensive performance on this level.  Nobody came close in 2008/09.

Posted by PuckStopsHere on 07/30/10 at 12:50 AM ET

Teebz's avatar

Hey, StatsDork.

How does one measure this “defensive performance” in terms of the level he played at? Win shares? Corsi rating? Any other non-tracked math equation that matters ZERO to the NHL?

I’m pretty certain there were amazing defensive performances last season on par with the level that Keith had this past season. After all, his +21 rating wasn’t even the league’s best plus-minus this year.

I’d argue that Keith’s +33 season in 2008-09 was a much better defensive performance considering that he was 8th in ice-time and 18th in total shifts per game. His total shifts per game this season went up by 0.4 shifts-per-game, yet his plus-minus dropped by 12. If he was on the ice for more goals-against, how is that a better defensive performance when his total shifts per game increased marginally? In fact, his total ice-time went up by one whole minute from last season to this season, meaning he was a much better player last season to earn a +33 rating than he was this season in earning a +21.

Oh right… there’s that little thing called “a team”.

Look, there’s no doubt that Keith had one of the better seasons in recent history. He won a pile of accolades, and he certainly deserved them.

However, Tyler Myers had a phenomenal season on a team that had little scoring prowess. Myers also blocked a helluva lot of shots, and was on the ice in every pressure moment that the Sabres were in. And he’s 20. If you watched Myers at all this season, he certainly could have been in the running for the Norris Trophy as well.

There’s that Doughty guy. He’s also 20, but I would rank Keith’s defensive work this season higher than Doughty’s work.

The argument of age against Pronger? Complete BS. Defensively, he had a better season than Keith. He was 5th in blocked shots last season. Keith? 25th. Pronger was 4th in shifts-per-game. Keith? 15th. Pronger was 8th in plus-minus. Keith? 9th. While Keith logged more ice-time and scored more points (two stats that seem to go hand-in-hand), Pronger did more defensively in less time than Keith did with his time.

While you’re certainly welcome to argue all of these points, your subjective view on Keith is noted, and your man-love for the warrior on the Hawks blueline has been recorded. You like the work he did, and you want more people to know how good he was despite receiving the most votes for the trophy that recognizes the league’s best defenceman. Seems like a number of people are already aware. Yet you choose to respond to the HFBoards here rather than making your point THERE where they were discussing the defencemen. Why?

Just realize that some people didn’t like Bobby Orr after he won the Calder Trophy and some people didn’t like Wayne Gretzky after he scored 200 points. Your subjective view is as valid as those views posted on the HFBoards, and neither is right or wrong.

Posted by Teebz on 07/30/10 at 04:14 AM ET

PuckStopsHere's avatar

How does one measure this “defensive performance” in terms of the level he played at? Win shares? Corsi rating? Any other non-tracked math equation that matters ZERO to the NHL?

It is a very involved question to answer how one tracks defensive performance.  I have written a lot on it if you want to look at my archives and it is not a totally solved question.  One thing is for sure you do not use raw +/- ratings if you want to be taken seriously.

This completely ruins this argument:

I’m pretty certain there were amazing defensive performances last season on par with the level that Keith had this past season. After all, his +21 rating wasn’t even the league’s best plus-minus this year

The argument of age against Pronger?

The simplest argument against Pronger is that nobody saw fit to nominate him for the Norris Trophy in years.  He has not won or been first runner up to the thing in a decade.  Not since 2000.  Why is that?  Because the voters have not seen him as the best defenceman in the league in a long time.  Any laundry list of out of context stats doesn’t change a thing (ironically you call me stats geek and proceed to argue this way).

YOU do not realize how good Duncan Keith is either.

Posted by PuckStopsHere on 07/30/10 at 08:05 AM ET

Teebz's avatar

The simplest argument against Pronger is that nobody saw fit to nominate him for the Norris Trophy in years.  He has not won or been first runner up to the thing in a decade.

You do realize that the defencemen with the most points are normally in the running for the Norris Trophy, right? I mean, you do know something about the NHL, right?

Mike Green, who is clearly one of the best defensive players in the game (excuse the biting sarcasm) has been one of the finalists for the second year in a row. He lost to Chara last season (who had a whale of a campaign) and to Keith this season (who had a whale of a campaign). Is Mike Green one of the best defencemen in the NHL? Yes. Would I put him on the ice late in a game when leading by one goal? No.

You shoot your own theory in the foot with your argument against Pronger not being a finalist or winner. Unless, of course, you’d take Mike Green in a shutdown role when you need to stop a team from scoring. I’m sure you’d rather have Green out there than Pronger when the faceoff is deep in your own zone with a one-goal lead, right? Anyone wanna take bets on that one?

Your claims of how good Keith was this season are SUBJECTIVE. Was he good? Undoubtedly. Did he deserve the Norris? Of the three finalists, he was the best. Was he the best defenceman on the Blackhawks this season? Of course he was.

But arguing that he’s the best player on the defensive side of the puck? You’ll never get a definitive yes or no when comparing non-tracked stats like Corsi numbers and win shares. The voters don’t use these for anything, so they mean nothing in the end. And if you aren’t bringing in hard numbers, then the results are entirely opinion. Much like the opinions posted on the HFBoards and on this blog.

Posted by Teebz on 07/30/10 at 02:35 PM ET

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imageThe Puck Stops Here was founded during the 2004/05 lockout as a place to rant about hockey. The original site contains over 1000 posts, some of which were also published on FoxSports.com.

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