Hawks Insider

Why Keith is on board with Blackhawks' youth movement

/ by Charlie Roumeliotis
Presented By Chevy Drives Chicago
Hawks Insider

When the Blackhawks parted ways with franchise goaltender Corey Crawford and traded two-time Stanley Cup champion Brandon Saad, Jonathan Toews was outspoken about the direction of the franchise. 

"Bottom line is, I want to win,” Toews told The Athletic. "The expectation for the other leaders on this team and myself is to come ready to training camp every year to be a playoff team. We prepare ourselves to win a Cup for our fans. I’ve never been told that we were going through a rebuild. That has never been communicated to me, for that matter. A lot of this comes as a shock because it’s a completely different direction than we expected."
 
Days after those comments were made, Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman arranged a video conference call with the Core Four of Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Toews, along with head coach Jeremy Colliton and senior vice president of hockey operations Al MacIsaac, to get on the same page. The meeting lasted about an hour, and both Bowman and Colliton said in October episodes of the Blackhawks Talk Podcast that it was a productive discussion.
 
For the first time since then, Keith opened up about that meeting and what he took away from it.
 
"For myself and I think for the rest of the guys, you look at the situation that's been happening last 2-3 years here in Chicago, there's been a lot of turnover," Keith said. "A lot of change with a lot of new faces, new guys coming and guys that had been here a long time had moved on, so with all these young guys coming in [and] looking for opportunity.

"For myself, I didn’t really see it so much as a change in that kind of philosophy. We’ll see how it goes here to start the season. I'll try to worry about myself as much as I can in a sense where I'm going to try to be in as good a condition as I can and be ready to go here for the start of the year and camp. Try to battle and earn my spot just like anybody else would, like I have every single year."

Keith is a very introspective guy and a great leader in the locker room. He wants to win now, no question, but understands the process of building the Blackhawks back up requires an influx of young talent and patience.

"He's a curious guy," Colliton said. "He asks questions, he wants to know, not so much in the heat of the moment, but after the fact. 'Why are we doing this? What do you think about this situation? Oh yeah, absolutely that's true.' He enjoys seeing the young guys have success. Even when we're doing the conditioning skates, he's making sure that our young guys have to push just a little bit harder.

"He's leading by example in that, and that's part of our advantage, is having guys like that around. The young guys, of course, they look up to those players and any type of feedback they get from those guys like gold and probably those veteran guys underestimate the effect that they have when they do speak to those young guys."

 

The Blackhawks communicated to the Core Four that this isn't a full tear-down of a rebuild. The process was already ongoing, and it was more about being transparent with fans about the direction.

At age 37, Keith is still a significant part of the puzzle and the quicker the younger players take that next step, the quicker the Blackhawks can get back to contention.

"I think, as an organization, the wording was they wanted to give young guys opportunities, and young guys have been getting opportunities," Keith said. "You need young guys to play and you need to have young guys to be a big part of your team to have success. You see that with other organizations that are successful, they have young guys step in and play important roles in the team's success. That’s what we want to have here, that’s what we need to have here.

"We only have a few old guys, so you're going to have to play young guys and they're going to need to be good players and important parts of our team. I’m going to try to help them along as much as I can."

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