Time heals all wounds (well most anyway) and since time has passed between the 2010-11 season of watching Keith put together the worst season he will ever have, I might go a bit easier on the guy. Which will be hard given that he looked more like that Duncan Donut guy who races Kaner Coffee and Bolland Bagel between periods at the U.C., just without the smile. The other thing time tells us is that Keith's 2009-10 season was just about the best season a guy can ask for. He won the Cup, the Norris and a Gold medal. You could even argue that his performance was Conn Smythe worthy. My mom always said that she preferred coming from behind in games rather than hold a lead. Maybe Keith feels the same way and given his performance this year we should be in for a hoot this coming season.
It is impossible to argue that besides Toews, the Hawk's success is carried more on Keith's shoulders than any other Hawk. His stats illustrate a very clarified picture that when he is on his game the Hawks win and vis-versa. I feel, and I am sure most would agree, that Keith was the worst performing Hawk this year, largely because of the epic contrast from his season past. That could be your justification right there for the difference between winning the Cup and barely making the playoffs to go out in the first round. His performance in game 5 of Nuck's series this year adds further weight to that hypothesis, where Keith played brilliantly and it was crushing to the Pres. Trophy winners. And given his remarks during the season, Keith would agree with most of what I just said. His own words told the story of a guy who was mentally tired and frustrated with a body that just didn't have anything in the tank.
Even though every game seemed to get more ugly than the first for Dunc, Q seemed insistent on playing him in every situation and against everyone's top line. He didn't know what else to do other than go with the guy who won him a bright silver Cup. Keith ended the season as one of the largest disappointments in the league and as the leader in collecting minutes on the ice. Bad coaching alert, Bad coaching alert! I really have a hard time justifying this, I mean come on, you don't kick someone in the knee when they just had knee surgery (I don't know what that means, but I continue anyway). He was obviously tired and had not recovered from the plethora of minutes from the months earlier, and yet, you just kept sending him out there. I am not trying to make excuses for Keith, just trying to show how many factors play into a players success. I understand that the defense never looked quite as perfect as we would have loved, but by the time we had Campoli I saw no reason to keep leaning on Dunc so much. Not to mention the fact that when he did get a slight break I thought we saw a more composed player.
This is still Keith's responsibility alone. He finished as a negative 1 for the season, handed out more bad passes than a quarterback without arms, had a huge decrease in point production and insulted his teammates. And besides leading the league in ice-time, he also finished second in having his shots blocked of all NHL players. This along with his terrible passes through the neutral zone are evidence of his fatigue, and of his poor vision on the ice. These two factors also contributed pretty hard to the Hawk's suffering power-play. I know, when does the hurting stop? Not quite yet, because the biggest eye sore for me was not the hundreds of shots he put right into the oppositions shin guards, or his comments off the ice, or his lack of vision. There were countless bad decisions made by Keith on and off the ice, but his lack of legs were the pulsating example of how bad his season was. The many instances when Keith was beat to a puck, or lost a race, or just couldn't keep up bewildered me. I have never seen a player dominate as a skater so convincingly and then crumble so hard and so easily.
Here is the deal: Keith has shown to have maybe the best legs in the league. I have even argued that he might be the fastest skater in the NHL (seriously). In the past, he has made bold moves in an attempt to pinch or poke check where he missed, was beaten and then turned around and caught up to the attacking forward to save the day. No race to the corner could be lost, and anyone pressuring him was in for a sampling of dust. He is one of the most entertaining skaters to watch and his skill in this department allows him total freedom when playing to his abilities. He can make that mistake and still catch up to you which is where his strength is. However, this year, he couldn't catch John Scott, well maybe Scott, but thats it. He still made mistakes (plenty) but he was never able to correct them through his speed. Something was wrong with him, very wrong and over time this added to his timidness which eventually caused his total collapse.
Final grade: D-, as in D for Duncan Donut. The fact that I can see how some coaching decisions played into his suffering season is the only thing keeping him from a complete failing of the course. Now we can move on to the 2011-12 Keith. Lets put this year behind us, remember how good it felt in 2009-10, to win all of those trophies and be a dominant force on the ice. The skill is there, and plenty of it. IF the Hawks can manage to keep Campoli around for another year, the defense looks pretty damn good and everything will not have to rest on your shoulders. There is nothing to lose now. Time to enjoy the game again