In this edition of my wish list, I break one of my rules. (It’s okay – they are my rules, after all.) Normally, I avoid targeting team captains, or alternates, but in this case, I had to turn a blind eye to that regulation, just as I did when I focused my attention on the Los Angeles Kings’ Dustin Brown. Hey – it happens.
Duncan Keith, Defense
Let’s look at his numbers – always a good place to start. During the regular season, Keith had 27 points, which would have made him the fourth-highest scorer on the entire Sabres roster. More importantly – to me, anyway – Keith had 24 assists on the season, which would have made him the number one set-up man on Buffalo’s team this year. Yep: as a blueliner for the Blackhawks, Keith had more assists than any offensive player on the Sabres. Sure, sure sure – you can say, “Gee, maybe he got all of those assists because Chicago had the 6th best offense in hockey this year!” Oh yeah, smartie? What if Chicago’s offense was the 6th best in hockey BECAUSE of Keith? Playmakers make people around them better, and Keith creates opportunities for players like Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews that they might never get if not for his skills. If you’re a Buffalo fan, and you DON’T think the Sabres could use a d-man who can provide a boost to our offense, you spent all of last season watching videos of previous years. Get your head out of the sand!
Keith’s contributions to offense have not diminished now that it’s the playoffs, as he has 10 points, including 9 assists, in fifteen games played. His 34 shots are 4th-best for a defenseman in these playoffs, so he certainly isn’t afraid to get the puck on net, which, again, is something I wanted to see more from the Sabres’ d-men this season. Speaking of defense – you know, the position he plays – his hit and blocked shot totals are not off-the-chart, but his plus/minus is always solid (+16 regular season, + 5 playoffs), especially when you consider how much ice time he logs.
And if you’re sick of me looking at his numbers, fine: consider what Kane had to say about how difficult it will be to replace Keith, who is suspended for tonight’s game 4 against the Los Angeles Kings:
“He’s a big a part of our team, obviously. To see stuff like that [the high stick he got on King's forward Jeff Carter] on the ice is scary, but it’s obviously incidental . . . He eats up a lot of ice. He’s a guy that’s in great shape. He never gets tired out there. He’s tireless. Especially on the back end with a guy that can move the puck like that, plays in all situations — power play, penalty kill — it’s a huge part of this team.”
Clearly, Keith means a lot to the Chicago Blackhawks. He passes and shoots, he logs major ice time, and he makes the players around him better, both on offense (all those assists) and on defense (he’s credited with really helping Brent Seabrook become more physical and assertive this postseason, according to NBC Chicago). He would have a huge and instant impact on the Buffalo Sabres, which is why he is the member of the Blackhawks I would push the Sabres to try and acquire .