Two nights before the 2002 draft, Smith's hand-picked director of amateur scouting, Bill Lesuk, said he wanted to draft a scrawny Michigan State freshman named Duncan Keith in the second round.
"What's wrong with that?" Smith said. "Take him."
"Well, he's only 5-10, 165 pounds," Lesuk said. "And you're going to be really criticized for taking him."
"Bill, we're criticized no matter who we take," Smith said. "I remember being cut to shreds when I took Teppo Numminen in Winnipeg."
"Well, I think he'll grow, but he has every aspect for the game needed for where this league is headed," Lesuk said.
"Then take him," Smith responded. "He'll grow."
The above is from one of the best articles I've read on The Athletic, authored by Mark Lazerus.
The article was all about Mike Smith and his time in Chicago as the Hawks GM.
He was almost fired for that draft pick and Bob Pulford actually repeatedly told him the Duncan Keith selection was the worst draft pick ever (followed by Dustin Byfuglien).
I don't need to go through the impact that Duncan Keith has had on the Blackhawks franchise but I will name his accolades just to kick this blog off; 3-time Stanley Cup Champion, 2-time Norris Trophy winner, 2-time Olympic gold medallist, Conn Smyth Trophy winner, and named one of the top 100 players of all time.
What a waste of a 2nd round pick eh, Bob?
I have been thinking about this blog for some time now because while Keith's accomplishments above at extremely impressive and will forever be etched in Blackhawks history, it's his influence now at age 36 (soon-to-be 37) that will live on for years, possibly decades to come with the next wave of Hawks younger players.
Just like Adrian Aucoin's leadership (and landlord duties) affected Duncan Keith when he first entered the league in 2005-06
, Keith has been paying it forward and leaving a mark on soon-to-be stars in Chicago.
There have been rumours that Keith is a grumpy guy who doesn't want to work with rookies and young players but that is simply not true.
Keith is a fiercely competitive guy who will do anything he can to win. If he has to put a rookie in his place once in a while, then he'll do that to help that player realize what needs to do to help the team win.
The future Hall of Famer has spoken highly of his "younger" partners in recent years, as it has appeared that guys like Adam Boqvist and Henri Jokiharju have reinvigorated Keith, making him feel and play younger than he is.
Keith, along with Seabrook, have been the veteran babysitters on the backend for years now with Keith spending a lot of time with Jordan Oesterle, Jan Rutta, as well as the aforementioned Boqvist and Jokiharju.
The Blackhawks are in a weird spot right now. Some have called for them to stay the course and others say, "tear it down" and rebuild.
Some say a rebuild looks like moving on from the core players that – while they helped win Stanley Cup - are aging out.
Duncan Keith is one of those guys.
Even at 36 years old, Keith could be tempting to a team looking for a top 4 D with TONS of experience at $5.5M per until 2023.
I have seen many trade proposals that would send Keith out of town to make way for the next wave of Blackhawks defenders like Boqvist, Mitchell, and Beaudin.
To that, I say YOU CRAZY!
Why don't you look at your experience in your own career; how did you get where you are now? Did you have a mentor?
I know I sure did.
I started as a clueless 20-something in the advertising industry in Toronto, and thanks to some amazing mentors (thanks LLU, Bev, Doug, April, and Jess), I grew to a spot where I was handling million dollar+ ad campaigns for PepsiCo across Canada.
I was very fortunate I had the right people to elevate me to the best version of my professional self.
Duncan Keith's presence, which includes his insane work ethic - on and off the ice - is paramount moving forward to the future success of the Chicago Blackhawks.
I don't feel too worried about where the Hawks are now and the future at forward; Patrick Kane is a freak and is still getting better, Jonathan Toews has stepped his game back up, Alex DeBrincat is a scoring machine, Kirby Dach looks like a keeper, there's still Brandon Saad and Dylan Strome, and possible Alex Nylander turns into a top 6.
On the backend, Duncan Keith is still holding it down at his age but there's a big drop off after him.
In my opinion, it's not just the short-term effect that Keith has, but the long-term success of the team is dependent on Keith's mentorship of the next wave, specifically Adam Boqvist, Ian Mitchell, and Nicolas Beaudin.
Stan Bowman, do not trade this guy, you have a built-in coach and one of the best defencemen who has ever laced up the skates in Chicago for (at least) the next 3 years.
Let him teach, train, and mentor these prospects that – under Keith's watch – could turn into stars… stars that could bring home another Stanley Cup one day.
Based on where this Blackhawks team is now, you may think a Stanley Cup is out of reach and you may be right, but I can tell you they are a lot further off if guys like Mitchell, Boqvist, and Beaudin aren't prepared on and off the ice to take the torch from Duncan Keith.
Stay safe and see ya out there!