Blackhawks "After the Rafters": Brent Seabrook
In continuing the "After the Rafters" series, we tackle another Blackhawk from the dynasty era: Brent Seabrook. So far we have covered Patrick Sharp, Corey Crawford, and Niklas Hjalmarsson as other members from the dynasty teams. This, of course, all being prompted by the announcement of Marian Hossa's number 81 being retired next season. Reminder: at the end, I will make a determination to the best of my ability if Seabrook should be considered for "One More Shift," "Rafters," or "Statue."
Drafted by the Chicago Blackhawks in 2003, Brent Seabrook came onto the scene with the team in 2005. During the 2005-06 season, Seabrook finished with 5 goals and 27 assists, earning him a 13th place finish in Calder Trophy voting. In 2006-07, Seabrook played all but one game with the team and increased his average ice time from 20:02 to 20:46. Over the next 5 seasons, Seabrook played no fewer than 78 games, while increasing his average ice time each season. He reached a career-high in 2011-2012, playing 24:43 minutes a game. During this stretch, he also posted his second-highest point total in his career with 48 points in 2010-11. He also had back to back All-Star appearances in 2009-10 and 2010-11. He finished 13th in Norris Trophy voting and won a gold medal with Team Canada in the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.
Seabrook continued to dominate on the blue line throughout most of the rest of his career. Both in 2013-14 and 2015-16, which were seasons following winning the Stanley Cup, Seabrook was voted to the All-Star Game and finished top 20 in Norris Trophy voting. As is commonly known, injuries started to pile up for Seabrook as his career waned. Though he played 78 games in 2018-19, his average ice time dipped below 20:00 for the first time in his career. During his final season (the COVID-shortened season os 2019-20), Seabrook played in 32 games with only 18:02 in average ice time. With the injuries he had accrued in 2019 and then again at the start of the 2020-21 season, Seabrook determined it was time for retirement. His body simply couldn't take it any more.
It was a devastating end to a phenomenal career. Though the career-statistics and achievements may not appear too flashy on the surface, I think was Blackhawks fans remember most is the on-ice leadership and multiple highlights from the Stanley Cup Championship runs.
Most notably for me are two plays during Cup runs. Firstly, Seabrook's monster hit on St. Louis Blues captain (at the time), David Backes. It was kind of a dirty hit, and Seabrook paid the penalty not only with a 5-minute major, but also a 3 game suspension. Needless to say, from a fan's perspective, it was so satisfying to see. As a Blackhawks fan, I hate the Blues with a burning passion and to see Seabrook end their playoff hopes with one incredible hit... I'm not going to say I root for injury, I certainly don't. I prefer the safety of all players, but since Backes has recovered from that concussion seemingly healthily, I think it is ok to look back on that moment as an important one from Seabrook.
My favorite Seabrook moment of all time came during the 2013 Western Conference Finals against the rival Detroit Red Wings. Winner moves on to the Stanley Cup Finals against the Boston Bruins. After Niklas Hjalmarsson's goal with 90 seconds remaining was erased on a bogus double-penalty call by the officials, the Blackhawks and Red Wings found themselves in overtime. Deadlocked at one, neither team seemed to be able to take advantage of opportunities, and with about 16 minutes remaining, Seabrook found himself open with the puck at center ice. He skated it up the middle, Red Wings defenders (four of them!) closing in, he raised his stick and SLAP! The puck came to rest at the back of the net. That moment was so full of joy at the sight of Seabrook ending the Finals hopes of the hated Red Wings.
As you can see, every fan has their favorite moments of Brent Seabrook, as I'm sure you do as well. So where does he rank amongst the other Blackhawks greats? I know this is up for much debate, but I am firmly in the camp that Seabrook deserves to have his number retired. He was the number 2 defenseman on the team, a critical leader on the ice, and one who delivered some classic moments to look back on. Seabrook would never get a solo statue, but I could potentially see a scenario, even, where a statue is made including Seabrook and Duncan Keith as a tandem. I think, at the very least, that number 7 deserves to be flying in the rafters.
There are some who think the Blackhawks should do a combination of Chris Chelios and Brent Seabrook jersey retirement. It is certainly an interesting idea that will be explored on the next installment of the "After the Rafters" series later this week.