We are entering the home stretch of our series of player evaluations here on Madhouse Enforcer, and today, we have a taste for nachos, so we are evaluating Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook.
The Blackhawks are loaded with players who can make a big impact on the offensive side of the puck. Whether it’s forwards like Patrick Sharp, Patrick Kane, and Marian Hossa, or defensemen like Duncan Keith and Nick Leddy, the Hawks’ puck possession game and ability to score gobs of goals gets a ton of attention.
The reason that Seabrook is such a key part of this team’s blue line corps is because he doesn’t worry about all that offensive stuff (although in fairness he did have 20 points in 47 games this season). Instead, he worries more about the physical side of his game, and is the type of stay at home defenseman that allows guys like Keith and Leddy to roam freely on the ice.
That style of play resulted in Seabrook racking up 106 hits on the season (second on the Blackhawks, only trailing Bryan Bickell’s 108) and picking up 103 blocked shots on the campaign. Including this one:
That play ended up costing Seabrook a game, and likely a shot at beating Bickell’s hit total for the season.
Seabrook also came through in several big spots for the Hawks over the course of the season on the offensive side of things, including several game winning tallies in overtime during the team’s Stanley Cup run. His overtime goal in Game 7 against the Detroit Red Wings ended the series in emphatic fashion, and he also had an overtime game winner in the Hawks’ 6-5 triumph over the Boston Bruins in Game 4 of the Cup Final.
Whether or not the term “clutch” has any real world value remains a matter of fierce discussion among NHL statistical savants, but it sure seems like Seabrook at least has a flair for the dramatic that helped the Hawks in a big way this season.
Seabrook’s shot blocking totals and hit totals both are good indicators of the style of game he plays, and for the large majority of the time, he does so effectively.
The problem is that there are times that Seabrook’s play doesn’t quite make it up to snuff. Several times during the season Seabrook appeared lethargic on the ice, and his slow-footed approach ended up costing the Hawks a few goals. He also would sometimes take bad defensive routes to the puck, including one in Game 2 against the Red Wings that cost the Hawks a 3-on-1 break that resulted in a Wings goal.
Things got so bad in that area that head coach Joel Quenneville ended up drastically cutting Seabrook’s minutes during Games 3 and 4 of that series, with Seabrook only playing 12 minutes in the team’s Game 4 loss.
Obviously, fans know how that story ended. Seabrook was removed from the third pairing with Leddy and was reunited with his longtime running partner Keith, and ended up having a great conclusion to the playoff run. It does go to show that even though Seabrook plays a game based on responsibility, sometimes he can lose sight of that, and Quenneville has to keep a sharp eye on the situation to make sure it doesn’t affect the team’s ability to win.
Best Game of 2013:
The narrative of “message sending” doesn’t always hold water upon closer examination, but Quenneville’s decision to limit Seabrook’s minutes in Game 4 of the Western Conference Semifinals seemed to have the intended effect, because Brent came out firing in Game 5.
In that contest, he picked up a power play assist and fired seven shots on goal against Jimmy Howard, and played 23:20 of mistake free hockey in helping the Hawks to a 4-1 victory that sparked their remarkable comeback from being down 3-1 in the series. Seabrook’s 2:42 of short-handed ice time also helped the Hawks to a perfect 4-for-4 performance in penalty killing that night.
When the 28 year old is fully dialed in on both sides of the ice like he was that night, there are few defensemen in the league that can match his skillset, and that’s why he is a prime contender to once again represent Canada in the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
Outlook for 2013-14:
Seabrook may or may not start the season with Keith alongside him, but it seems likely that at some point in the new campaign, Quenneville will once again pair him with Leddy in an effort to get the young blue liner some quality time on the team’s second defensive pairing.
The decision will have the short term impact of evening out the defensive pressure that the Hawks are able to deploy, but long term, it is going to be important for Leddy’s development to get him more consistent ice time, and Seabrook seems to be the guy that Quenneville likes pairing with him for those purposes.
In addition to shepherding Leddy along, Seabrook is also going to need to remain vigilant on the penalty killing side of things. The Hawks are sure to go through some growing pains in that area with players like Andrew Shaw and Brandon Saad vying for the ice time vacated by the traded Michael Frolik, and those youngsters are sure to have some growing pains along the way.
It will be up to guys like Seabrook and Keith to take care of any attackers that evade that first layer of defensive zone pressure for the Hawks, and it will surely test his abilities on the penalty kill to the max.