Ask Brian Campbell. Big money typically results in double the scrutiny.
We made the point last season once Duncan Keith signed his 13-year $72 million contract extension, in turn making Keith the highest-paid player in the history of the organization. Sometimes the scrutiny is unfair or unjust. But nitpicking the performance of athletes is a scene hardly unique to a specific sport or era. High ticket prices and the public’s knowledge of player salaries have intensified this though.
Although NHL caponomics rate Keith’s salary cap hit at a convenient $5.38M per season, Keith is being paid $8M per season for this and the next two years of his contract. During the first six years of the deal, Keith will be paid an average of $7.79M per season.
Now, this year it seems every day more fans and analysts are coming to find holes in Duncan Keith’s performances. This is slowly leading those same people to turn an accusatory finger at the 2009-10 Norris Trophy winner when assessing blame for the 2010-11 Blackhawks mediocre first half.
There’s no denying a drop in level of play in Keith’s game this season. He was overworked early as Joel Quenneville had to rely more on Keith and Seabrook with Brian Campbell out of action for the first 13 games of the season with a sprained knee. Even in Campbell’s return, Keith saw no reduction in ice time aside from a brief benching in the Nov 10th game against the Coyotes. The defense’s minutes were also distributed a bit more evenly for a few games in Quenneville’s response to the 7-2 loss in Calgary on Nov 19th. But without a dependable third defensive pairing, Keith is seeing more “hard” minutes against the opposition’s top lines than ever before.
– Keith’s average time-on-ice in each of the last three season’s initial 20 games
Keith finished the ’08-09 season with a TOI average of 25:34. In 2009-10 his average was eight seconds higher (26:36) by season’s end.
While Keith has been the victim of some unfortunate bounces and those have turned into prime chances and goals against his team this season, the fact is there have always been lapses and an element of risk to Keith’s game. The majority of occasions in season’s past he’s been able to compensate for mistakes with his speed and conditioning, but not so much this year. His misreads on loose pucks 10 feet inside the offensive blue line were usually overlooked until this season.
More than anything else, many have noted a perceived increase in the number Keith’s shots attempts being blocked. Worse, a high percentage of those are cast away easily by opposing forwards positioned sometimes no more than 10-15 feet in front of Keith. The trouble comes when Keith buries his chin in his chest and winds up, it gives the nearest shot blocker a chance to set up in the lane, with no fear Keith has anything else on his mind.
— Duncan Keith trends; Shots attempted, blocked and missed
Keith’s stats, the past 3 seasons, up to this point in the season, through 38 games played. For the record, the Hawks played game 38 of the ’09-10 season on 12/27/09 and on 1/8/09 during 2008-09.
– 43% of Keith’s shots this season are being blocked. This is an increase of 9% from last season and 11% from ’08-09. Yes, he is shooting more, but his ability to get his attempts through is trending backwards. The increase in shots attempted directly relates to a jump in Keith’s power play minutes. Through 38 games in ’08-09, Keith was averaging 2:19 per game on the power play; 2009-10 (2:38) and 2010-11 (3:20).
Defenseman will always have a higher percentage of their attempts blocked as opposed to forwards. However, Keith’s figures this season are abnormal and somewhat alarming. 43% is James Wisniewski bad.
For comparison, here’s a look at all Blackhawks and their shots attempted figures through the first 38 games played of the season. Sorted by percentage-blocked. Minimum 20 shots attempted.
Blackhawks leaders in getting their shots on net: Dowell (72%), Skille (68%), Hossa (66%), Toews (65%), Hendry (64%), Brouwer (59%), Stalberg (59%), Bickell (58%), Sharp (58%), Kopecky (58%), Morin (57%) Kane (56%), Pisani (53%), Bolland (53%), Boynton (52%), Scott (50%), Seabrook (44%), Campbell (42%), Cullimore (42%), Hjalmarsson (41%), Keith (34%)