Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville finally decreased the playing time of defenseman Brent Seabrook, and to great effect
Mercifully, Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville has finally seen what so many others have. During Wednesday’s 6-3 win over the New York Rangers, Coach Q diminished defenseman Brent Seabrook’s minutes.
It was getting to this point, as Seabs was below 20 minutes in three of the previous four games after 14 straight games over 20 minutes. But last night was a breakthrough, as Seabs was on the ice for just 16:26, well down from his previous season low of 19:07.
And, would you look at that, it made Seabs less of an anchor to his teammates. His one assist wasn’t really much (it was a secondary on an empty-net goal), but the advanced stats suggest Seabs thrived in this role.
Seabrook’s use changes
Seabrook carried a 60.0 Corsi-for at even strength against the Rangers. Now, the Rangers aren’t exactly a possession dynamo, 10th-worst in the league at 5-on-5. But Seabrook has been struggling to possess the puck against pretty much everyone, evidenced by a 47.65 Corsi-for at evens.
A Seabrook that possesses the puck is not nearly the liability as one who struggles to do so. Yes, Seabrook is still slow and can’t get into position on certain plays because of this, but lowering his ice time consistently ought to aid that issue to an extent.
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And part of the benefit will come in him holding the puck. This is a possession league, so any boost the Blackhawks can get in that regard is a good one.
Seabrook played fewer minutes than all of the Chicago blueliners. He also didn’t see a lot of time on special teams, clocking under 30 seconds on both the powerplay and penalty kill. He was essentially turned into a 5-on-5 specialist, and it paid off Wednesday.
Additionally, this time change allowed Seabrook to be used in multiple zones, versus just the offensive. Yeah, Q was trying to use Seabs in the D zone too often, but he’s still started nearly 60 percent of his shifts in the offensive end.
Last night, Seabrook at evens saw four offensive-zone faceoffs, seven neutral-zone faceoffs and three defensive-zone faceoffs. That’s a bit more balance, at least, and decreased ice time should mean Q can trust Seabs with a few more wonky zone starts, instead of just shoving him out on offense time and again.
Will it continue?
The big question now is if this is just a one-time thing, or if this is how Q is going to deploy Seabrook for the foreseeable future. I think it could go either way.
The big determining factor will be if the rest of the defense can play well enough for Q not to feel like he needs to go back to more Seabrook. It’s entirely uncertain if that will be the case, but the play of Connor Murphy, Jan Rutta, Gustav Forsling, Michal Kempny (when he plays) and Cody Franson (when he plays) needs to be strong more often than not.
I think if the Blackhawks can keep Seabrook’s minutes lower than they’ve been through most of his career, this team will benefit long-term. Seabrook will be better rested and easier to use beyond just offensive-zone starts, and the Blackhawks won’t have a lead-footed defenseman on the ice nearly as much as they have.