Despite boasting a resume that is the envy of virtually every NHL player — with an Olympic gold, Stanley Cup and Norris Trophy — Keith can't help but notice the room that remains in his trophy case.
"I'm proud of what I've been able to accomplish so far, but I don't think I've done a whole lot," Keith said Tuesday after Canada's practice at the IIHF World Hockey Championship. "In my mind, you look at some of the guys who I look up to like Nick Lidstrom: I've won one Stanley Cup and he's won four; I've got one Norris, he's won seven.
"I haven't really done anything."
It helps explain why he jumped on a plane for Europe so soon after his Chicago Blackhawks were eliminated from the NHL playoffs. In fact, the 28-year-old defencemen thought that the five days off felt like an "eternity."
Keith is one of three Canadian players who arrived at this world championship with a chance to join exclusive company. A gold medal in Helsinki would give him, Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry a coveted spot in the "Triple Gold Club" as champions at the Olympics, world championship and Stanley Cup.
"The first reason I came here was to win," said Keith. "Having that would definitely be a nice feather in the cap."
Outside of goaltender Cam Ward, there won't be another player counted on more than him. Keith averaged a team-high 21 minutes 32 seconds of ice time through the first three games of the tournament and drew high praise from coach Brent Sutter for his play in Monday's victory over France.
Injuries and late arrivals have kept the Canadian blue-line from getting into a regular rotation so far, but Keith has been counted on to provide some stability. It was no coincidence that 18-year-old junior prospect Ryan Murray was paired with him in the tournament opener and it's no surprise he's seen time on the ice with virtually everyone else since.
"He's a guy that's won and has won on big stages," said Sutter. "And he's made an impact when doing so. He's a great defenceman and we're certainly glad he's here."
Added teammate Dion Phaneuf: "He skates with the puck very well, he sees the ice great. He's won the Norris for a reason — he's one of the top defencemen in the NHL."
The Canadian team is moving into an important part of the world championship.
It will take a 2-0-1 record into Wednesday's game against Switzerland, which has proven to be an extremely tough opponent in recent years. Coached by Canadian-born Sean Simpson, the Swiss have arguably developed into the best team among the second tier of hockey nations and they're capable of upsetting one of the top countries on any given night.
"They're going to compete extremely hard and they're going to be very structured," said Sutter. "They're one of those teams that just won't go away, it's just the way they are."
It's the same kind of mindset that propelled Keith to the NHL.
He actively pursued a childhood dream of playing hockey at its highest level by refusing to let anything stand in his way. Never labelled a can't-miss prospect — Chicago drafted him 54th overall in 2002 — he's developed into a player every single team would love to have.
There's no real secret to his success.
"Most importantly, I just wanted to make the NHL so bad when I was a kid," said Keith. "I always knew that I would find a way and I would do whatever it takes. I always had that determination and work ethic that I feel like I still have.
"I think it's helped my career."
It's bound to result in more accolades being added to his trophy case in the coming years.
A reminder of the progress Keith has made comes from the fact he was never given a chance to win gold with Canada at the world junior championship. Invited to the selection camp at age 18, Keith was cut from the team in December 2001. He wasn't able to make it the following year, either.
"In my head, I thought I should have been on those teams," said Keith. "But obviously the coaches saw it differently and that's fine, I understand that. ... The main constant is I always knew what I was capable of.
"Just because one team didn't believe in me, that didn't phase me."Suggest a correction