Recommitted Duncan Keith still elite

The Chicago Blackhawks defenseman is still a legitimate Norris Trophy candidate

Updated: September 6, 2011, 4:39 PM ET
By Neil Greenberg | Special to ESPN Insider
Duncan KeithBill Smith/NHLI/Getty ImagesAfter admitting focus was an issue last season, Duncan Keith is ready for a fresh start.

Count me among those who thought that Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith would have an excellent 2010-11 season.

The season before, he set career highs in goals (14), assists (55) and points (69) and won Olympic gold, a Stanley Cup and a Norris Trophy. But in 2010-11, the Manitoba native fell well short of those expectations.

Keith posted 24 fewer points, had a negative plus/minus (minus-1) for the first time since his rookie season, and acknowledged that after the euphoria of winning the Cup wore off, it was difficult to repeat the previous season's effort.

Illustration by Neil GreenbergRanking of NHL's top defensemen in the last three seasons.

"This year for me was frustrating," Keith told ESPN Chicago back in April. "I felt like I had really good stretches and then there were times where -- I don't want to say lost focus -- but not really as interested for whatever reason."

The decline in Keith's play from the previous season echoed Chicago's tumble from Stanley Cup champion to a team that barely made the playoffs.

Keith looked like the best defenseman in hockey on only a few occasions, and the Blackhawks need him to revert to his '09-10 form if they wish to return to being Cup contenders. But can Keith once again be the league's best defenseman for a second time in three seasons? It sure seems that way.

Neil Greenberg is ESPN Insider's NHL analytics expert. His columns have appeared on the Washington Post website, and he is a regular guest on Sirius XM NHL Radio.