There were very few players on the 2010-11 Blackhawks’ roster to which the word “consistent” could be applied. Fortunately there were at least a few, and fortunately one of them happened to be on the blue line — else who knows how many more games we would have lost.
Rare was the night that Brent Seabrook scored the winning goal, or stopped a breakaway, or dropped the gloves. But game in and game out, there he was, doing his job. Which is more than can be said for about 80% of the roster.
I remember about halfway through the season I woke up to the realization that Seabrook was leading the team in assists, and third on the team in points. By season’s end, he was 11th among defensemen league-wide in both points and assists. Surprisingly he finished the year flat in his plus-minus, largely (I feel) due to partner Duncan Keith’s four-month brain fart to start the season.
But there’s another statistic that speaks volumes about Seabrook’s play: 227 hits, 3rd among defensemen, and 12th in the league at any position. And these aren’t candy-ass little Francis Bouillon hits either: when Brent Seabrook hits you, your car door gets dented. About once every 8 to 10 games, Seabrook would step into somebody and tattoo them so hard they looked like they were in a Road Runner cartoon. Legal, total, brutal. They were a thing of beauty.
Additionally, Seabrook was second on the team in blocked shots with 154. In fact, only one player was ahead of Seabrook in both hits and blocks: Toronto’s Luke Schenn, who only had half as many points. That says a lot about the level of consistency that Seabrook delivers in so many areas of the game. Pinching deep and getting shots on net, making the passes through neutral ice, blocking shots, and delivering as many hits as Domino’s delivers pizza.
Where’s the Achilles heel? Speed. Getting around him is not difficult, and the speedier forwards around the league learned to push the play to his side of the ice. His partners would know to cover his ass, even when he *was* in position, and that helped. But if Seabs was the only man back in a 2-on-1, they were past him in five strides and two passes. At 6′ 3″ and 218 lbs, I don’t think we will see any improvement in this area. But this is something that can be compensated for strategically.
The other potential problem is injuries. The down side of being the guy who dishes out the punishment is that you also receive a fair bit of it yourself. Late in the season Seabrook was the recipient of a cheap shot by the Canucks’ chicken-shit coward Raffi Torres, and suffered his third concussion in as many years. Concussions are a cumulative injury: the more you’ve had, the easier you can get another one, and the worse that one will be. The frequency and severity of Seabrook’s concussions may mean more games lost to injury in the short term, and may shorten his career by a couple of years. Which brings us to the contract problem…
Seabrook was the big unrestricted free-agent question mark coming in to this season. He was definitely part of the young core of players Blackhawks’ GM Stan Bowman wanted to lock up for the medium- or long-term. But as the trade deadline approached (with no deal for Seabrook) and the Blackhawks continued to wallow in not-quite-in-the-playoffs territory, rumors started to fly. Seabrook was one of the only members of the team with unquestionable value on the trading block: but were the Blackhawks willing to part with him? If Bowman got a deal that was too good to pass up, would he bite? Fans held their breath and waited, some on both sides of the argument.
Bowman took his own sweet time about it, but just hours before the trade deadline he announced that a deal was in the can to keep Seabrook with the Blackhawks for the next 5 seasons, at just under $6 million per. That means he’ll be suiting up and doing his job, night after night, in the Indian Head sweater — just where we want him.
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