Defenseman Duncan Keith might be the second oldest player on the Blackhawks’ training-camp roster; and yes, he may be in the back half of his illustrious career. But despite turning 35 in July, Keith has no plans to slow down.
Not even after last season’s regression.
Asked about how much gas he had left in the tank, Keith flexed his biceps.
“Oh, I got a lot,” he said Wednesday while showing off his arms.
That didn’t necessarily answer the question.
Asked again how much longer he believes he can play, Keith replied: “I don’t know. We’ll take it day-by-day, hour-by-hour, but I feel good. I feel hungry.”
Coach Joel Quenneville knows for a fact that you can’t decelerate Keith. Trust him, he has tried.
“In the past, [limiting his minutes is] not even a consideration because he’s fine,” Quenneville said of Keith, who averaged just under 24 minutes of ice time last season. “He’s like, ‘No, I’m fine.’ It’s the last thing he’s worried about . . . If you want to cut back, he looks at you like, ‘Why?’ ”
But as Keith gets older, it’s becoming increasingly more difficult for him to put up the numbers he did during the seasons when he won his two Norris Trophies (2010, 2014) and the Conn Smythe Trophy (2015).
Keith has scored more than 10 goals three times during his 13-year career. But in 82 games last season, Keith managed to score only two goals on 187 shots.
Maybe it’s a sign that Keith’s age is catching up to him, and perhaps it’s time the Hawks limit his ice time to average out to 22 or so minutes per game.
“[Keith] wants to play like every single player that’s in any position,” Quenneville said. “They want to play more [minutes] and in his situation, more might be a little too much.”
Even if Keith can’t continue to produce as consistently as he used to, Quenneville still sees the value of having a player like Keith on a blue line filled with younger talent.
“He really helps your team,” Quenne-ville said. “The way he plays, the minutes he plays, the importance to your team’s success is vital on a game-to-game basis . . . Our team this year, we’re going to need him to play minutes. And we’re going to need him to play an important role as well.”
Quenneville also believes Keith’s work ethic and professionalism is something young players should strive for.
Now at training camp, Keith feels revitalized. He’s not worried about how frustrating last season was.
But if there was one positive thing that came out of the Hawks’ unusually long offseason, Keith believes it was the quality time he got to spend with his 5-year-old son, Colton, at a lake in Canada.
Between offseason workouts in which he focused on endurance and speed, Keith would often go swimming with Colton, throwing him in the water and jumping in after him.
“He’s been swimming without a life jacket since he was probably 2,” Keith said. “He likes it.
“We’ve got a great relationship and we had a lot of fun . . . Those are memories we’ll always remember.”
Duncan hopes this upcoming season will bring more memories for him and his “little guy” — ones with glorious postseason celebrations filled with champagne showers and red-and-white confetti.