Blackhawks' Duncan Keith drops out of World Cup, Canada adds Bouwmeester
Canada's blue line takes a hit as an injury has forced two-time Norris winner Keith out
Team Canada' defensive corps for the 2016 World Cup of Hockey took a hit Wednesday as it was announced that Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith will be unable to participate. He is being replaced by St. Louis Blues defenseman Jay Bouwmeester on the roster for the event which begins Sept. 17.
According to a statement released by the Chicago Blackhawks, the two-time Norris Trophy winner is continuing to rehab a right knee injury he sustained during the 2015-16 season. Chicago's team physician Dr. Michael Terry said it was Keith's decision to drop out of the tournament.
"We believe it is in his best interests to focus on getting stronger and not risk further injury," Terry said in the statement.
Losing Keith, who was on each of Canada's last two Olympic gold medal teams, is a pretty significant loss for a team that pretty much everyone would consider the favorite to win. While Canada has plenty of depth to soften the blow, Keith likely would have been playing significant minutes as a top-four blueliner. Bouwmeester isn't going to be able to replace those minutes, while this could lead to a more significant role for Los Angeles Kings defenseman Jake Muzzin to help fill the void.
Some might wonder why Canada went with the Blues' rearguard over perhaps a more offensive-minded P.K. Subban or Kris Letang, but head coach Mike Babcock is big on handedness when it comes to defensemen. Bouwmeester is a left shot like Keith, while Subban and Letang are right shots. Additionally, Bouwmeester played a more significant role than Subban did on Canada's gold medal team at the 2014 Olympics.
Bouwmeester's game has appeared to be in decline over these last two seasons, though. The 32-year-old had just 19 points over 72 games last year, while logging an average of 23-plus minutes per game last season. Formerly an easy 30-40 point defenseman on a pretty regular basis, Bouwmeester has slid into more of a straight shutdown role.
This is the second replacement Canada has had to name to its roster in as many days. Dallas Stars captain Jamie Benn revealed that he had to drop out of the tournament Tuesday. He was replaced by Logan Couture of the San Jose Sharks. Despite Benn's immense talent, Canada's peerless, deep forward group should absorb that loss better than the blue line can absorb Keith being out. Keith's absence changes the dynamic of the defense in some ways as they lose speed and the offensive attributes he brings.
This shouldn't change Canada's status as the favorite by any means, but it is a downgrade to the roster.
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