It used to be that the words "knee surgery" and "hockey player" thrown together cast a dark pall over a player's future.
The medical techniques used to treat players in the older days seem downright medieval by today's standards—one look at Bobby Orr's knees is visual proof of that. Today, with the wonders of magnetic resonance imaging and laser-guided techniques that can make clean, quick and lasting repairs, knee surgery isn't much of a big deal anymore to the modern player.
That is why Chicago Blackhawks fans shouldn't worry too much about the team's announcement on Tuesday that the reigning Conn Smythe winner, defenseman Duncan Keith, underwent surgery on his right knee to repair a torn meniscus.
In fact, there's a good chance that this will end up benefiting Keith and the Blackhawks in the end.
The team said Keith will be out four-to-six weeks, and that should be a very accurate prognosis. Meniscus repairs are the relatively simple for surgeons to make, and recent history is dotted with players who came back good as new following similar injuries.
Colorado's Matt Duchene and P.A. Parenteau, for instance, both returned to good form after missing that much time with meniscus tears in recent years. John Tavares suffered a torn MCL and meniscus at the Olympics last year, only to come back in 2014-15 and finish one point away from the scoring title. He looks as good as ever this year.
Let's face it: Keith has played an awful lot of hockey for Chicago over the last few years. He loves playing himself to the physical limit, as last year's playoffs showed. Keith played 715 minutes in last spring's playoffs (31 minutes a game), becoming just the fourth defenseman in NHL history to log more than 700 since the stat started being kept by the league in 2001, according to ESPN.
He was brilliant and richly deserved the Conn Smythe. But as the injury has proved, Keith is human, and a rest—even if he doesn't want it—will do him good in the end. He not only has played huge minutes in all of Chicago's three successful Stanley Cup runs since 2010 but also on two Canadian Olympic gold medal teams.
The guy needs a break. With the wonders of today's medicine, Keith's knee might be better and stronger for the coming years. Is there a little something to worry about? Well, yeah; the man is 32 years old and has a lot of mileage on him. You always start to worry about a player's decline once he gets into his 30s, especially in today's NHL.
But Keith has always kept himself in phenomenal condition. He has never looked his age on the ice.
This rest should be even more beneficial to Keith mentally. It will give him a chance to slow down a little and have some quality thinking time. He'll realize even more just how much he loves the game and be loaded for bear when he comes back. That can only help coach Joel Quenneville.
If this injury happened right before the playoffs? Yeah, it's a disaster. Blackhawks fans would have every reason to be in mourning. But if there is ever a good time for an injury to strike, this was it for Keith and the Hawks. It will also give some other guys on the Chicago blue line to a chance to play more and get better, instead of watching Keith eat up half the clock every game with his considerable presence.
Keith's absence will give youngsters Trevor van Riemsdyk and Viktor Svedberg, who have a combined 33 career games between them, an opportunity to show Quenneville more of what they can do.
Then, after they learn more about themselves and are better for the experience, Keith will be back.
As good—or maybe even better—than new.
Adrian Dater covers the NHL for Bleacher Report