May 13, 2012
Canada's Keith leads the way
By TERRY JONES, QMI Agency
HELSINKI - Young players need experienced examples to show them the way. And Brent Sutter believes Canada's youngest will leave here with gratitude for what Duncan Keith is showing them at the world hockey championships.
"He's a tremendous example for Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, John Tavares, Jeff Skinner and so many of our young players who haven't had the opportunity to experience success with their NHL teams so far in their career," said the coach of Team Canada.
"He's been outstanding for us. He's really not very old but he's experienced. He's won. He's a winner.
"He's the guy with the Stanley Cup ring and Olympic gold medal and every day he's here to play like that on this team. And that's not a surprise to me because that's the way he plays for his own team," he said of the Chicago Blackhawks defenceman.
"He's a good player and a great person. He's a true pro.
"He's responded so well in every situation for us. We have the youngest team Canada has ever brought to the world championship and he's been just such a great example for these guys."
Keith may be Canada's most motivated player.
"The only reason I came was to win," he said.
"The only reason I came was to help Canada win this tournament and I think we're on the right path right now.
"We have a lot of work ahead but we're down to the final week now and this is the team to do it.
"I'm frustrated the way the season ended in Chicago and I want to finish it up on a positive note," said the player whose frustration may have extended to serving the first suspension of his career, five games for his elbow to the head of Vancouver Canucks winger Daniel Sedin.
"I think this is what we all came here for this year, to finish on top, to get Canada back to No. 1 for the Olympics," added the gold medal winner at Vancouver 2010, who won silver with Team Canada at the 2008 world championship.
Keith, the Winnipeg-born 28-year-old who grew up in Fort Frances, Ont., until his family moved to Penticton, B.C., when he was 14, won the Norris Trophy and Stanley Cup in his fourth season in the NHL after two years developing with the Norfolk Admirals in the AHL.
With only Tuesday's game against Belarus remaining before the quarterfinals and the medal round, Keith has put himself in contention for tournament top defenceman honours.
He was fourth in tournament scoring and the highest ranked defenceman with a goal and eight assists for nine points and a plus seven going into Sunday's tournament play. Tavares (4-4-8, +5) and Eberle (4-3-7, +5) were ranked right behind him in the top seven of the scoring race.
"I'm an offensive defenceman and when you have skilled forwards like we have, the points should come."
He's enjoying playing with the young Canadian talent which has come into this league lately and said if he's serving as their example in this tournament, he's proud to be doing it.
"That's a pretty good compliment to get from a coach," said the player who had his mom Jean here to celebrate Mother's Day as well as dad Dave and wife Kelly-Rae.
"They are all exceptional offensive players. They all have that drive and desire in them you don't always see in guys starting out.
"They're all quiet guys who have a real desire to succeed and a real determination to be good players that really sticks out when you play with them."
"I was already a bit familiar with him. He had a pretty big night against us early in the season in Edmonton," he said of the five-assist night in a 9-2 Oilers win over the Blackhawks back in November.
"He's a young guy who is very respectful. And he has such a great attitude.
"You can see the reason he was drafted No. 1. He has a great attitude and he's going to be a heck of a player down the road. He's very quiet and observant and a nice guy."
He suggested that observation pretty much applies to everybody on the Tavares, Eberle, Skinner line as well.
Quiet, respectful Canadians. That's who we are. But in hockey? Not normally our M.O.