If the Chicago Blackhawks win the 2015 Stanley Cup, Duncan Keith would get my vote for the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP.
The workhorse defenseman has been nothing short of incredible this spring. He's averaging over 31 minutes per game. Those are hardly easy minutes, either. With Chicago's injuries they are relying on only four defensemen, with Keith and Brent Seabrook basically playing every second other shift, plus the majority of all specialty team situations. The opposition, as they always have tried to, put a target on Keith, throwing the puck into his corner, hoping to punish him physically. Yet he, as he always has, has responded with brilliant play. Perhaps the best of his career.
The 31 year old leads all defensemen in scoring. With 19 points so far Keith has a chance to lead all skaters in scoring by the end of the playoffs. Only teammate Patrick Kane is better right now, with 20. Keith has a whopping 17 assists, and is likely to surpass Anaheim's Ryan Getzlaf (18) to lead all players. And his +/- numbers are the best in the league.
Earlier this week we heard comparisons of Jonathan Toews to Steve Yzerman. I think it's time we also begin looking at Keith's ranking in history.
Specifically, is Duncan Keith the greatest defenseman in the long history of the Chicago Blackhawks?
I have generally placed Hockey Hall of Famer Pierre Pilote at the top of that list. He was a Keith-like general of the Hawks in the 1950s and 1960s, including when they won the Stanley Cup in 1961.
Chicago born Chris Chelios deserves serious consideration, though a significant portion of his Hall of Fame career took place in Montreal and Detroit, too.
Chicago's other to Hall of Fame defensemen to note here are from a by-gone era - Earl Siebert and Bill Gadsby.
Others to note include Doug Wilson, the highest scoring defenseman in Chicago history by far (779 points in 938 games. Veteran Hawk d-men Pat Stapleton, Bill White, Bob Murray and Keith Magnuson would also get some possible mention.
With his career incomplete I'm willing to place Keith as high as two on this list, behind Pilote. When all is said and done I very possibly would rank him as the all time best in Chicago. He has two Stanley Cups, two Norris trophies and two Olympic gold medals, and he has time to add to those accolades.
Here's some more Pucks On The 'Net:
- Chicago's ownership continues to say that the Blackhawks are not turning a profit, despite long playoff runs in four of the last six seasons. Hogwash, I say. They blame years of poor performance prior to this current era of success. Clearly any paper losses incurred in these days of excellence are some sort of accounting carry over from previous years, trying to recoup losses from years ago. If they are not able to profit strictly on this year's data, then clearly ownership has no one to blame but themselves.
- Congratulations go out to Bob McKenzie, who was named the winner of the Elmer Ferguson Award as the Hockey Hall of Fame's journalism inductee. I've been reading McKenzie's work since his days with The Hockey News. Nowadays he is best known as the most trusted hockey journalist on television and Twitter. He has had a profound influence in my own attempts at writing about hockey.
- Congratulations also go out to Nick Nickson, the long time radio voice of the Los Angeles Kings, as the Foster Hewitt Award winner for his Hockey Hall of Fame career in hockey broadcasting. Which brings me to my annual rant - why isn't Don Cherry recognized in this category.
- Interesting news this week as Mario Lemieux and business partner Ron Burkle are exploring the possibilities of selling the Pittsburgh Penguins, and thus recouping their equity. The two bought the franchise in 1999 for $107 million, while Forbes Magazine valuated the franchise at $565 million last November. I heard one report saying the Penguins might go for as much as $700 million, though that may have been said in Canadian dollars.
- Let's hope game two of the Stanley Cup final is better than game one. Since Eastern and Western teams don't play each other as often, game one of the final can often be a bit of a dud. That one, in comparison to much of the hockey we've seen this spring, truly was. It will get better, with Tampa Bay learning to keep their foot on the gas for all 60 minutes.