When the Edmonton Oilers acquired Duncan Keith from the Chicago Blackhawks in 2021, many felt the team overpaid for a player well past his prime. The Oilers traded young defenseman Caleb Jones and a conditional 2022 draft pick for Keith and minor-league player Tim Soderlund, with no salary retention on his $5.5 million cap hit.
It’s been an up-and-down season for the two-time Norris Trophy winner. Earlier in the year, he formed an effective second defensive pairing with Cody Ceci; although, he’s missed eight games due to an upper-body injury and one game due to COVID protocol. Having said that, the team sorely missed his presence in the lineup, as their six-game losing skid in December would suggest.
There are polarizing views on Keith’s effectiveness on the Oilers, but what cannot be overshadowed are his accomplishments in the NHL over the last 17 years. When he decides to hang up his skates and call it a career, he’ll be considered one of the best ever to patrol the blue line. Below are three seasons that define Keith’s soon-to-be Hall of Fame career.
2009-2010: Blackhawks & Team Canada
In his fifth season in the league, Keith was tremendous as he and Brent Seabrook established themselves as one of the league’s top defensive pairings. He registered the best offensive season of his career with 14 goals and 69 points. He led all defensemen in even-strength goals (10), assists (38), and points (48), and he took home his first Norris Trophy, awarded to the league’s top defensive player.
He was also a warrior in the playoffs. In the Western Conference Final, he took a puck to the face, lost ten teeth, but returned to play 12 minutes into the final frame. Offensively he was exceptional, notching two goals and 15 assists to tie the franchise’s postseason record. He helped the Blackhawks capture their first Stanley Cup in 49 years with his superb effort.
To add to his incredible season, he played a leading role for Team Canada at the Olympics in Vancouver that February. He led the team in ice time, had six assists (good for third in the tournament) en route to helping Team Canada win a gold medal on home soil in the classic overtime win against the United States. To top off the spectacular season, he signed a 13-year, $72 million contract with his NHL club.
2013-2014: Blackhawks & Team Canada
In 2011-12 and 2012-13, Keith’s level of play had regressed. While the powerhouse Blackhawks won a Cup the year before, in the 2013-2014 season, he bounced back to an elite level. The blueliner was always known as a workhorse; he led the team in ice time and logged an average of 24:32 a game – beating defense partner Seabrook by 2:32.
He put up his second-best offensive year, tallying six goals and 55 assists in 79 games. His 55 helpers led all defensemen and ranked sixth among all NHL players that season, earning him his second Norris Trophy — beating out Zdeno Chara and Shea Weber. Unfortunately, the Blackhawks lost to the Los Angeles Kings in Game 7 of the Western Conference Final.
Keith again represented his country at the Olympics in Sochi, Russia. No stranger to the workload, Keith logged the second-most ice time for Team Canada, with 126 minutes, trailing only Weber (131 minutes). He added an assist and had a plus-6 rating in six games, helping his team capture their second gold medal in four years.
While the Blackhawks lost in the Western Conference Final the season before, the team as a whole – anchored by Keith – were motivated to recapture the Cup. Individually, Keith registered 10 goals (his highest goal total in five seasons) and 35 assists in 80 games. He also played in his third All-Star game that season.
The Blackhawks finished third in the Central Division, and Keith was stellar throughout the playoffs. In the first round against the Nashville Predators, he scored game-winning goals in Games 1 and 6. When Chicago was down three games to two in the Western Conference Final against the Anaheim Ducks, the blueliner set up three straight goals, prevented a potential tying goal and forced a Game 7, which the Blackhawks won.
The team fought their way to the Stanley Cup Final against the Tampa Bay Lightning, and Keith scored the Cup-clinching goal. He was sensational, and an integral part in helping the Blackhawks win their third Stanley Cup in six years.
The playoff battle took its toll. It was later discovered that Keith was playing with a torn meniscus in his right knee in the Final. Nonetheless, he had a massive postseason, tallying 21 points in 23 games, with a plus-16 rating, three game-winning goals, and averaged 31:07 minutes of ice time. He took home the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP after his incredible performance.
Keith has always been known for his fabulous skating, hockey IQ, and his hard work on and off the ice. In 2017, the NHL commemorated its 100th anniversary with a list of the 100 Greatest NHL Players, and Keith was among these legends. With three Stanley Cups, two Norris Trophies, two Olympic gold medals, and a Conn Smythe trophy to his name, when his playing days are over, he’ll be regarded as one of the best defensemen to lace up skates.
He’s the first ever Ultimate MVP fan of the NHL as declared by Upperdeck – He’s been featured on CBC Radio providing hockey analysis for the Edmonton Oilers – He’s a freelance writer and Edmonton Oilers’ Sportswriter for the Hockey Writers.